School Suspends 19 Pregnant Girls

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Caprivi Senior Secondary School has suspended 19 female students who are expecting babies, together with one male student who single-handedly impregnated five of the learners. Yesterday, the head teacher Michael Mudabeti confirmed the cases, saying these cases took place over the past seven months and that the expecting students and the young casanova have since been sent home. Though he could not provide comparison figures with last year’s cases, Mudabeti stated that this year’s cases are slightly higher than in 2005. He added that those who are affected were in grades eight to twelve. One male student was suspended after he was accused of having unprotected sex with at least five of the students who ended up pregnant. It could not be established whether there are any male teachers involved. The principal, who could not say much, told New Era that most learners especially at this age do not realise that their future is important. “They must take care of themselves. There are diseases, they should be patient until they are old enough to make informed decisions,” he said. The school has about 1 000 learners, with 48 percent of them being female. The Director of Education in Caprivi Region, Lovemore Lupalezwi informed New Era that he was briefed about this situation though he expects Mudabeti to present a detailed report to his office by next Monday. He said, “The girls were suspended because such a situation cannot be tolerated. It may send a wrong message that they can all fall pregnant if they see their fellow learners still attending school.” He said there should be “zero tolerance” for sex among students and that both parents and educationalists should work together to fight this. The director regards the issue of pregnancy in the region as of great concern especially because of the high rate of prevalence of HIV. “It is happening at a time when there is a programme such as My Future My Choice helping children to stay in school and not fall pregnant,” he said. He added that such incidences are also taking place at a crucial time when great emphasis is being placed on the need to ensure that female learners remain in school to address other societal matters pertaining to gender and the appointment of women in senior or managerial positions. He continued: “It is a main concern because it has to do with indiscipline and attitudes. The education officials will have to discuss with the parents and guardians, see what we can do together.” Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education Toivo Mvula told New Era that girl learners who fall pregnant are allowed to stay in school until such time as they feel the need to rest. However, the ministry in its operative policy relating to school pregnancies disallows teenage mothers, and fathers should they be at school, from going back to the school benches for 12 months after giving birth. “The ministry wishes to point out that this policy should be seen and appreciated as an honest attempt to balance the entrenched right to education, as articulated in Article 20 (1) of the Namibian Constitution, on the one hand, and the fundamental right of the child as enunciated in Article 15 (1) of the same Namibian Constitution,” which, among others reads that each child as far as possible has the “right to know and be cared for by their parents”, former Minister of Education John Mutorwa once stated.