Soaring abortion rate suggests failure to communicate
Volumes have been written about the crisis in education in the relatively impoverished Eastern Cape and, yesterday, The Times exposed the appalling conditions at a government school in the province that was described by one of its teachers as a "pigsty".
Today, we report on how state abortion clinics in the province are buckling under the strain as thousands of schoolgirls, some of them as young as 12, come forward asking for abortions.
Because the clinics cannot cope - an abortion takes place on average every 10 minutes at Eastern Cape clinics - many young women are forced to consult backstreet abortionists.
Official figures show that the problem is steadily worsening - the latest statistics suggest that the number of legal abortions done in the province each month has doubled since the beginning of the year.
The rate of teenage pregnancies in the Eastern Cape is also the third-highest in the country, according to a recent report by the Department of Basic Education.
Chillingly, while some of the girls are raped or enticed into having sex by "sugar daddies" - with promises of money or gifts - others use abortion as a means of contraception because they don't want to use condoms or other forms of birth control.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the government's messages about the dangers of HIV/Aids and the need to practise safe sex are simply not getting through to the youth.
If the mainly poor youths of the Eastern Cape are going to stand any chance at all of securing a decent future, the government - which placed the crisis-wracked provincial education department under administration last year - is simply going to have to find ways of improving conditions at schools and jacking up the quality of teaching in the province.
At the same time, the officials responsible for shaping the official messages on HIV/Aids must go back to the drawing board and find ways of connecting with the youth.