Pupils should not have sex but if they fall pregnant, they should be treated with respect and encouraged to finish their education, according to the Department of Education.
The department’s Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy focuses on prevention, emphasising the importance of sex education, HIV/Aids education and peer education among pupils, but also offers guidelines when pregnancies do occur.
“In accordance with the Constitution, the South African Schools Act, and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act … school children who are pregnant shall not be unfairly discriminated against,” said the guidelines. “Accordingly, in July 2000, the council of education ministers issued a statement indicating that pregnant learners may not be expelled from
schools.” When pupils fell pregnant, schools should balance the needs of the individual against those of others in the school community. In addition, confidentially is crucial, said the
“Parents or guardians should only be informed and involved after consultation with the learner involved, although confidentiality is not an option when the learner or others are at risk.”
Learners were urged to inform a senior teacher if they were pregnant. Pregnant learners, and fathers-to-be — if also learners — may ask or be required to take leave of absence from
school. No time period for this was set but pupils are expected to take full responsibility as parents so “a period of absence of up to two years may be necessary”, said the guidelines.
Babies must be protected, so pupils will have to show that proper childcare arrangements are made before they return to school. Pregnant pupils may not be unfairly discriminated against, but they must also understand that their school communities may not support their situation. Schools should however “strongly encourage” pupils to continue their education. Schools should keep
records of learner pregnancies.