Apathetic and absent parents a recipe for teen pregnancy at high school
A lack of parental guidance, discipline and poverty are some of the main causes of the high pregnancy rate at a high school in Randfontein, Gauteng.
“The parents themselves do not give support to the learners and the majority of the learners live alone. Those learners are not being monitored and are able to do whatever they want,” said acting principal Winnie Ketlhoafetse on Wednesday.
Ithuteng Secondary School made headlines in 2019 after reporting more than 30 teenage pregnancies.
The school is a few kilometres from a main road and roads leading to it are narrow and surrounded by small houses. There are two tennis courts and two netball courts at the school and some container classrooms.
Most of the parents of the pupils work on surrounding farms.
MEC for economic development, agriculture and environment Morakane Mosupyoe was there on Wednesday, and Ketlhoafetse highlighted some of the challenges the school faced.
She said most pupils lacked discipline due to having absent parents.
“In some cases you will have parents that will come to the school and say that learners as young as 14 have left the house for three or four weeks without coming back.”
“Parents need to be equipped and educated so that they are able to discipline. Discipline does not mean beating, they should be able to talk and have a relationship with their children. At the end of the day they will be able to give them proper guidance,” said Ketlhoafetse.
She said many parents showed no interest in the education of their children, adding that they did not attend school meetings.
Ketlhoafetse was hoping for a better year in 2020.
“This is going to be a great year. When we met educators yesterday, I realised that most of them were positive and when you start with a positive attitude we are going to win.”
During her address, Mosupyoe challenged pupils to improve on the matric pass rate at the school, which dropped from 96.4% in 2016 to 67.9% in 2019.
“One of the challenges is the teacher and student ratio, it is a bit too high but the school has a programme that is driven by the department of education to address that.”
Mosupyoe said some of the pupils had also failed to attend support camps offered by the education department. “That is one of the identifiable problems that can be addressed immediately.”
She said the high teenage pregnancy rate was a “serious concern”.
“Pupils need parental support and they need to make those around them aware of their challenges and problems.
“We need to give our children support so that they don’t indulge in things that they are not supposed to.”
Life orientation teacher Manaka Mmathema said the school had enrolled in several programmes to help curb pregnancies.
“We used to teach them about pregnancy, substance abuse and other struggles through Unicef [the United Nations Children's Fund].
“Some of the programmes helped the learners but with some we failed, because we still had a high pregnancy rate. This year we need to have more effort, support and strategy on how we can help and improve [the situation of] learners.”
As the new school year begins, we take a deeper look at the matric pass rate and its importance. The matric pass rate for 2019 exceeded 80% for the first time since 1994, but some academics argue that this figure does not reflect the true health of the education system, due to the high dropout rate. Others suggest that the country's focus on the matric pass rate is problematic in itself.