School blocks pupil mom after 'parents complain'
A matric pupil who gave birth in April has been told by staff at her private Free State school that if she wants to return to school she should go back to grade 11.
This is despite Sindisiwe Mgcina, 18, earlier proposing that she miss just 15 days of school - five days before delivery and 10 days after she gave birth.
New Horizon College claimed in a letter - seen by the Sunday Times - that Mgcina "will not cope with the demands of grade 12 work" once she returned from maternity leave, despite her passing all her subjects in the first quarterly exams.
Mgcina is now sitting at home because none of the three English-medium public schools in Bethlehem are prepared to enrol her in matric as more than half the year is over.
In a letter dated March 12 and signed by the school's principal, Phillip Pekeshe, and director, J Eyberg, Mgcina's mother, Salmina, was told "your child's pregnancy is very conspicuous and parents are on social media complaining about it and that they don't like their children to be exposed to that at school".
"We have children, parents as well as a reputation, image and integrity to protect as an independent school."
Salmina was also told that the teachers had no training in midwifery and would not be able to assist if the pupil went into labour.
New Horizon's decision flies in the face of the department of basic education's draft national policy gazetted for public comment in February last year, stipulating that no pregnant pupils should be excluded.
The policy states that "there should be no exclusion of pregnant learners who must be allowed to remain in school during their pregnancies and return as soon after giving birth as is appropriate for both the learner and her child".
A devastated Mgcina said: "They denied me my basic right to an education. I never wanted to stop going to school but wanted to continue and complete my matric."
Salmina said she signed a letter in April informing the school she was taking her daughter out because they refused to allow her to return to grade 12 this year.
I never wanted to stop going to school but wanted to continue and complete my matricSindisiwe Mgcina
Lee-Anne Bruce, Sandile Ndelu and Sheena Swemmer from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University said no-one should be refused an education based on their gender, pregnancy or health status.
"It would seem unfair or irrational to send someone back to a school grade they had already passed, and a year wasted in this manner would certainly count as a 'disruption' to their education."
The school's management said in an e-mail response it had told its side of the story to the Free State education department.
Department spokesperson Howard Ndaba said they would meet with the school to try to persuade them to reconsider.
"Although we issue them with a licence to operate, we don't have jurisdiction to intervene because they are a private school."
Elijah Mhlanga, spokesman for the department of basic education, agreed no learner should be prevented from going to school because she is pregnant.
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