Ohara Ngoma-Diseko says the Department of Basic Education must reopen public comment on its 2018 draft policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools.
To turnaround inefficiencies in programmes that aim to address learner pregnancy, coordination and collaboration comprising national, provincial and local government actors alongside youth community leaders, activists, and agencies such as the CGE is needed. But before this, certain immediate actions need government attention.
First, the Department of Basic Education must reopen public comment on its 2018 draft policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools. This policy was in the public domain for comments in 2018, but the public knows little about what progress has since been achieved.
Second, in February 2020, the Human Rights Watch submission to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recommended that government removes any conditional measures currently applied in terms of the 2007 Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy which has negatively affected girls’ access to education by deterring their return to school.
Similarly, arguments have been made by the CGE, where the commission highlighted the different and gender discriminatory ways in which schools were dealing with learner pregnancies. The Commission recommended that a system of reintegrating girl’s return to school should be formed. The CGE must pursue and monitor the extent to which the girl learners come back to school and the complete school.
Third, interventions should design appropriate programmes for teen fathers to prepare them for fatherhood. Co-parenting must be promoted as a responsibility of both the girl-child and boy-child. This would go a long way to changing public perception that teenage pregnancy is only the girl’s problem. Local initiatives that address teenage pregnancy such as the Men as Partners programme, and the CGE Men’s and Boy’s programme should be evaluated, and the lessons learned used to improve and intensify the programmes.
COVID-19 has the potential to truncate the country’s education and skills development trajectory, which will have an adverse bearing on the economy’s future growth. South Africa’s experience of the pandemic is highlighting the importance of the family as a protective and nurturing societal institution. As such the country now needs to lead in building better families, communities and the nation.
Therefore, it is important, that in rethinking various societal interventions including the National Development Plan, be dexterous and highly coordinated approaches be taken, and that the family be put at the center.
Ohara Ngoma-Diseko is a Commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality