Parents of pregnant students at Fundokuhle Secondary School in Pietermaritzburg are spending the day at the school gates, on orders from the principal.
A mother*, whose daughter is four months pregnant, said parents had been ordered by principal Mlu Maphumulo to sit at the gate of the school to “monitor” their pregnant daughters. “He told us to do so and those of us who can’t come to school with our children have been forced to take them out from school,” she said. Some of the girls have dropped out of school.
The woman’s daughter, a grade 10 pupil, Nompilo (17), has dropped out since her mother cannot come to school and monitor her during the day. Her mother lives in Pretoria. She said her daughter’s future had been destroyed.
“This started three weeks ago,” said Nompilo. “All the pregnant girls from all the grades were called by the principal. He told us that we have to come to school with our parents because school is not a hospital and our parents have to come and monitor us in case something happens.”
“Parents whose daughters are pregnant come to school every morning. They come with their daughters and they sit by the gate with the security guard while the girls go to class. They sit there from 7:30am until 2:30pm when it’s school out time.”
“Those of us whose parents can’t monitor them are not allowed to come to school at all. We have no choice but to drop out. I haven’t been attending since my mother can’t take me to the school and wait for me until the school comes out. There are about 15 of us who are pregnant and not all of our parents come to the school. Some of us have dropped out” said Nompilo.
When GroundUp visited the school on 26 May, there were five parents waiting at the gate.
Maphumulo refused to comment, referring GroundUp to the education department.
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said policy was not to deprive a child of a right to education. He said the department encouraged parents and teachers to work together if a student was pregnant.
“What we normally say is that a child is entitled to her education even if she is pregnant. We cannot take the child out of school just because she is pregnant. We want the parent’s support but as the department we do not say that parents must go to school and monitor their children. That is not allowed.”
“Parents must monitor the situation especially when the child is about to give birth. At that stage, a child should be monitored, that is when we need the parent’s intervention,” said Mlotshwa.
Nombulelo Nyathela, spokesperson for Equal Education, condemned Maphumulo’s decision. But, she said, the principal was not breaking any law because he was allowing the pregnant students to attend school.
“He has done very well on that side. However, letting parents sit at the gate and wait for their children is not allowed”, said Nyathela. “There is a lot of stigma around pregnant girls and that should not be allowed.”
Last year, Equal Education member Sisipho Xhaxha a href=”http:groundup.org.zaarticleregnant-girls-must-be-allowed-class_2399″ target=”_blank”described a campaign at her school in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, to allow pregnant girls to stay in schoola. “Our pregnant peers are allowed to come and sit in the school admin block where they must wait for their friends to give them notes from class, but they are not allowed contact with students in class or any contact with teachers,” she wrote. “This rule only applies to girls. Boys who make girls pregnant do not get the same treatment.”
Research by the a href=”http:saldru.com.uct.ac.zabitstreamhandle110906162013_100.pdf” target=”_blank”South African Labour Development Research Unit published in 2013a found in their large survey that “over 24% of girls who had dropped out reported that this was due to being pregnant or having a baby.” A 2011 study by a href=”http:www.ekon.sun.ac.zawpapers2011wp092011wp-09-2011.pdf” target=”_blank”Martin Gustafsson at Stellenbosch Universitya cites an even higher figure, 42%.
Nompilo’s mother said all she wanted was for her child to go back to school. “No parent tells her child to get pregnant. This is out of our control, but to have our children dropping out from school is unacceptable,” she said.
* Nompilo’s mother asked that she and her daughter’s surname be withheld.
Source : GroundUp