What should school pregnancy guidelines say?
What should happen when a learner falls pregnant? Guidelines are on the way, but what would you add?
(Shawn Benjamin)
Pregnant learners in school uniform are a commonplace matter for most South African high schools – and even sometimes primary schools.

But for governing bodies, it’s not always clear how to react to a pregnant learner. What should be done for the wellbeing of mom, baby – and the other learners and teachers who may have to assist with medical problems if they arise? Discrimination against a person on grounds of pregnancy is against the law, but how does this manifest itself within the walls of a school?

A recent Bloemfontein High Court ruling requires the Minister of Basic Education to issue clear guidelines for schools on how to handle pregnancies, according to News24. This after a case in which two school s refused to let pregnant learners return to school.

A 2010 story in the Sunday Times described Siphumelele Secondary School in Mpumalanga’s controversial policy that pregnant learners must be accompanied by an adult at all times. This was aimed at freeing teachers to concentrate on educational issues.

In theory, having a pregnant classmate should dissuade other girls from following suit – after all, pregnancy is a physically and emotionally demanding experience. But it seems that pregnancies often come in batches. For example, Phumlani Senior Secondary School in the Lady Frere district reportedly had 69 pregnant pupils last year, spread over a number of grades.

It’s understandable that schools should want to minimise disruption from pregnancies, but it’s obvious this is not a problem that will be going away soon and can’t be swept under the carpet as it might once have been.

So what should school pregnancy guidelines say?

From the outside it seems pretty easy:
  • Educate learners about reproductive health and safe sex for pregnancy and disease prevention.
  • Allow pregnant learners to stay in school as long as possible.
  • Allow them to return to school as soon as possible.
  • Make sure teachers are given basic first aid knowledge to cope with an emergency.

What else is there? Add your thoughts about school pregnancy guidelines below.

Read more by Adele Hamilton

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