LISTEN | Dr Phophi Ramathuba responds to 'open your books & close your legs' backlash

13 January 2022 - 13:00
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Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has hit back.
Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has hit back.
Image: Alaister Russell

Media personality Siv Ngesi joined hundreds of people expressing their outrage over Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba's school visit address where she advised the girls to "open their books and close their legs".

A video of the MEC went viral on Twitter after she visited Gwenane secondary school in Sekgakgapeng on Wednesday to monitor the first day of the new academic year. 

She told pupils to focus on their studies, not on sexual activities, to reduce teenage pregnancy at schools. Only a part of the address topped the Twitter trends list which left tweeps infuriated.

In the video clip the MEC says: “To the girl child I say, open your books and close your legs. Don’t open your legs, open your books. Let me hear you say it! Open your books and close your legs!”

Watch the clip below:

Reacting to the clip, Siv slammed the MEC.

Dr Phophi Ramathuba at a school visit this morning, an entire doctor! What a bloody mess, why didn’t she tell the boys as well to open their books and close their zips! You’re on your own women/girls.”

In the comments section of Siv's post many celebrities shared his outrage. 

“This type of messages annoy me man. Women are always being policed but no-one teaches men,” actress Nolwazi Ngubeni said, while Dr Musa Mthombeni commented with disgust emojis.

Stats SA report on teenage pregnancy revealed that 33,899 births registered in 2020 were to mothers aged 17 and younger. More than 600 of the girls were aged between 10 and 13.

Figures for national deliveries in facilities by the department of health revealed that 132,612 girls aged 15 to 19 fell pregnant in 2020 and a further 35,209 between January and March 2021. 

Other people echoed Siv's sentiments on Twitter, dubbing the MEC's utterances as “problematic”. Here are some of the reaction tweets:

Speaking to TshisaLIVE Ramathuba hit back at “Twitter parents” and those lambasting her, saying not only did naysayers use the video clip without context, they had chosen to be ignorant about the factors that make teenage pregnancy a problem in rural areas and townships.

Here is what she had to say: 

She said her full address contained messages for both girls and boys.

“I have learnt and I've studied that 'Twitter parents' sometimes are the ones who will give you backlash for their own narrative. They are not interested in the issues that we are dealing with on the ground. That is why I never bothered to respond to them.

“There is no Twitter parent who is dealing with the problems that we are dealing with. The children that delivered in our hospitals, who are teenagers, their parents are not on Twitter,” she said.

“Twitter parents” and their children were privileged and didn't necessarily use public facilities or understand what life is like for parents and children in the rural areas or townships because of the class divide. 

“Teenage pregnancy is rife among the poor and working class. The affluent do not understand. My children and their children [the Twitter parents] know everything about reproduction because we sit with our children and explain things like menstruation, menopause, protective sex... we even teach them what is an orgasm. We give them that information.

“Whereas, the children I'm dealing with ... these are the children who are often orphaned, raised by grannies or from child-headed families. Children who are on their own.”.

Ramathuba added that the parents of the children she addressed — and her constituents on Facebook — were grateful their children found a “bold parent” in Ramathuba who would not shy away from telling their children the truth.

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