Pregnant learners can only attend school if accompanied by a parent

Limpopo and Gauteng basic education departments contradict each other on pregnant learner policy

By Bernard Chiguvare

13 March 2023

Pregnant learners at Tshiitwa Secondary school, Limpopo, are only allowed to attend school if they are accompanied by a parent. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

Pregnant learners may only attend school if accompanied by a parent, according to school policy at Tshiitwa Secondary in Ha-Mashamba, about 150 kilometres north of Polokwane, Limpopo.

When GroundUp reported about this exact same policy at a school in Mamelodi, the Gauteng education department immediately launched an investigation, taking the view that it was not in line with the National Policy for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools.

The Mamelodi school soon scrapped its pregnancy policy for being discriminatory.

But the Limpopo department appears untroubled by such a policy, even supportive of it.

Parents we spoke to are very unhappy with it. At Tshiitwa there are about eight pregnant learners who are accompanied daily by their parents or an adult they’ve hired. They sit on chairs outside the main gate throughout the day. Some have started selling sweets.

“I earn R600 per month and pay R800 for the lady accompanying my pregnant child to school,” said a mother who did not want to be named. She uses her child’s grant to help pay for the service.

Another mother said she worries that her home will be vandalised because she is away at school all day.

Mike Maringa, spokesperson for the Limpopo department, said, “If the parents want the learner to be at school, they must also carry the responsibility, because should anything happen to the learner, the school will be held liable, and the department has no qualified people to take care of learners in such a condition. As to how a family is dealing with the hiring of someone looking after the pregnant learner it cannot be the department’s problem. We do not cater for such.”

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the national department, said, “The interest of the department is that support should be given to the learner and that no learner should be turned back home because of their pregnancy.”

Mhlanga asked if the matter had been agreed between parents and the school governing board (SGB).

SGB chairperson Joseph Munyai confirmed the policy. We established there was a meeting but not all parents agreed.

Pila-sande Mkuzo, attorney at Equal Education Law Centre, says, “The current policy at Tshiitwa undermines several of the learner’s fundamental rights which include the right to dignity.”

According to the law centre, the policy is not in line with national policy nor two sections of the South African Bill of Rights.