The Ministry of Education and Skills Development is grappling with a disturbing number of school going children who eventual drop out of school as a result of pregnancy.
About 39 primary school children dropped out of school due to pregnancy in the school calendar of 2011 and 2012.
In secondary schools alone, 453 students fell pregnant in 2011. Nearly double the number was recorded in 2012 when about 730 students dropped out of school after falling pregnant.
These alarming figures were disclosed this week to parliament by Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, Patrick Masimolole.
The minister’s revelation came as a response to a question posed by Kanye South MP, Abram Kesupile, on the statistics of learners who had dropped out of school as a result of pregnancy.
Kesupile also wanted to know whether it is possible to get information regarding the culprits and whether action is taken if it is discovered that the culprit who has disturbed a student’s learning course is a government employee.
The MP also sought to know government’s long term strategy towards tackling teenage pregnancies in public schools.
“…in many occasions, pupils/students are not willing to disclose the names, relationship or even the occupation of the culprits. In most cases, those who fall pregnant would desert school and only share information with their parents who then decide not to disclose it to the school in fear of action being taken against the potential father,” said Masimolole.
The minister said that occasionally, especially where it involves peers, the identity of the culprit would be revealed. He said that in some instances the student would protect the culprit by implicating a different person.
“…In the event that the culprit is alleged to be an adult person in the employ of government, other than a teacher the incident is reported to the supervising department to take action as per provision of Public Service Act No of 2008,” he said.
He added: “Where the culprit is a teacher, disciplinary action is taken by the ministry and if found guilty, the concerned teacher is dismissed from the education system. If the matter constitutes suspected defilement, such cases are referred to social workers and reported to the police,” he further said.
Masimolole added that aside from the fact that learners are cautioned and taught about HIV/AIDS and related issues, as part of a strategy to address teenage pregnancy in schools, programmes such as guidance and counseling have been introduced in schools. This includes Peer Approach to Counseling by Teens (PACT), girls address, engagement by female teachers, parents’ involvement and social workers talk on issues of sexuality and adolescence.