KEETMANSHOOP: A group of 400 girls and 50 boys from various schools in the Hardap Region pledged to abstain from sex and using alcohol and drugs before they complete their studies.
The group calls themselves ‘Rise to Shine’, and is the brainchild of Pricilla van Wyk. They started operating in November 2007, with only 30 girls.
The boys and girls are in Grades Six to 12.
Speaking to Nampa at Keetmanshoop Central Park on Saturday, Van Wyk said their number has since increased whilst 50 boys have also joined.
The group is conducting an annual awareness campaign to encourage other school-children to abstain from sex, and to stay away from alcohol and drug abuse to ensure health and success in life.
Most importantly, the group aims to reduce teenage pregnancies and HIV/AIDS infections in the Hardap and Karas regions of the south.
“We do not only focus on abstaining from sex, but we also make sure that the learners, especially Grade, 10 and 12, get assistance with their school work to pass well.
Unfortunately, three girls from the group fell pregnant since we started due to circumstances,” Van Wyk said.
She noted that most of the girls were vulnerable when they joined, but are now strong and can make informed decisions to avoid pregnancies.
On Saturday, 25 learners from the St Mathias Primary school in Keetmanshoop attended the awareness campaign.
Van Wyk said none of these learners have joined the group yet, but have shown interest and indicated that they will consult with their parents and teachers before they join.
The campaign involves learners reading out words of encouragement in front of the crowd to help spread the message.
According to Van Wyk, the group meets once a week in Mariental to carry out activities such as school work and to encourage each other to stay clean of alcohol and drugs, amongst other issues.