Countrywide, the northern and northeastern regions saw the highest number of learners drop out of school due to pregnancy in 2013.
Figures from the Ministry of Education indicate that 1,553 female learners dropped out of school due to pregnancy in 2013. That same year an additional 21 male learners dropped out, because they had impregnated fellow female learners.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Johanna Absalom says prevention of learner pregnancy should start at home.
Statistical data from the ministry shows that the Ohangwena Region had the highest number of learners (339) dropping out of school, followed closely by Kavango with 304, Omusati 285, Oshikoto 165 and Oshikoto 124.
The //Karas region in the south had the lowest learner pregnancy rate, with only 12 cases recorded and no male learners dropping out.
Absalom said the fact that so many learners are dropping out of school presents a major challenge. She believes the prevention of teenage pregnancy should start at home.
“However, it must be acknowledged that not all learners have a stable home environment. Hence the support from key stakeholders and the community at large will go a long way in ensuring that the learners successfully complete their education,” she said.
She said the ministry and partner institutions have over the years also developed responsive policies for pregnant learners, expectant fathers and learner-parents, along with the entire education fraternity and key stakeholders.
Absalom believes their efforts would be complemented by a conducive social environment: “The need to improve the educational rights of girls who become pregnant is also based in part on the knowledge that this will affect the fate of their children and future generations.”
Absalom said the education ministry has undertaken a number of interventions to address this, including among others reproductive and sexual health education.
“Schools strive to ensure that learners, both boys and girls, are educated about the benefits of abstinence, the risks of engaging in sexual activity at a young age, appropriate use of contraception and the right of both male and female learners to free and informed choices in respect of sexual matters.”
She said trained and full-time life skills teachers are employed to fulfil this role and in some cases, principals also designated specific teachers and, or teacher counsellors for this task.
Absalom said key partners in this process include school principals, acting in consultation with life-skills teachers, or teacher counselors. They are encouraged to invite health and social workers to make regular presentations to learners on reproductive and sexual health issues.
“Prevention programmes shall be offered, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations and other agencies, wherever possible,” she said.
These initiatives will include the ‘Window of Hope School Principals’, and “My Future, My Choice” programme – which seeks to raise awareness about the risks of teenage pregnancy – as well as a Task Force to ensure learners who fall pregnant can still complete their studies.