TEENAGE PREGNANCY, AN ALL TIME PROBLEM
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
The education system is faced with a number of problems that are a cause for concern. These problems in the education system include the high-cost of education which yields poor performance, teacher shortage, under performing teachers and students, and insufficient resources. However, one of the biggest concerns, which is evident and cannot be ignored, is the high rate of teenage pregnancy and its effects on the pupil’s health, social, and their academic life.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 16 million women between 15 and 19 years old give birth each year, about 11 percent of all births worldwide. Ninety five percent of these births occur in low and middle-income countries. The average adolescent birth rate in middle income countries is more than twice as high as that in high-income countries, with the rate in low-income countries being five times as high.
Many health problems are particularly associated by WHO, with negative outcomes of pregnancy during adolescence. These include anaemia, malaria, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, postpartum haemorrhage and mental disorders, such as depression.
WHO maintains that family planning ensures access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples- is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities.
Although there are a numerous definitions for it. However, how one chooses to interpret the concept of “family” is absolutely dependent on them and their understanding of it. In layman’s tongue, a family comprises of people with whom one shares a roof, blood line, or close relations. For some teenagers who are still in school, parenthood comes sooner than “society’s preferred parental age”.
For 17-year-old Naledi Masondo, by the time the concept of family planning became familiar to her, she was already well on her way to motherhood.
“I had always heard of some girls becoming parents at a young age, but I had never thought I would become a parent during my teenage years as well. It happened in 2013 late in October when I missed my period. At first I was in denial because I had only had sexual intercourse once, but in the back of my mind, I knew I might be pregnant,” said Masondo as she reminisces on her first pregnancy.
Masondo says although the news came as a shock to her family at first, they eventually accepted the circumstances and were supportive of the pregnancy.
“My mother was shocked like everyone else at first, but in time she got used to the idea of having a grandchild and accepted it. The father of the child was very unsupportive. At some point, he hinted that I should have terminated the pregnancy and when I refused, he insisted that he would not play any part in raising the child,” Masondo added.
Masondo admits that although she is now aware of the various contraceptive methods available to her, it is all still relatively overwhelming to her. She also advised other teenagers to practise safe sex as they do not only risk falling pregnant, but they also expose themselves to HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses.
For 19-year-old Mandisa Gumede, the journey to motherhood was not an easy one, and it brought about a lot of stress.
“When I fell pregnant, it was very difficult. I hid the news of my pregnancy until I was 8 months pregnant, which is when my family found out. They did not take the news very well. There was a lot of tension at home, but in time they eventually accepted it,” said Gumede.
The father of the Gumede’s unborn child was unaccepting of the pregnancy.
“My daughter’s father did not want me to keep the child. When I broke the news to him, he insisted that I go and do an abortion and said that he would cover the costs for me. But my determination to bring this precious life to earth did not allow me to go through with it,” added Gumede.
Educator and mother, Zanele Masimula who has been in the teaching profession for many years, says teenage pregnancy was not as rife back in the day.
“I have been teaching for 20 years. When I started teaching, the rate of pregnancy was very low. Those who happened to fall pregnant were very ashamed and they were leaving school on their first trimester. These days, a new student comes forward with a pregnancy almost every month and that affects their education as they miss many days away from school,” said Masimula.
Masimula says that the student’s attitude towards them makes it difficult to offer any help to the student once they have fallen pregnant.
“The students are very rude towards us, and they make it no secret that they do not want our help when we try to intervene and offer social or financial assistance once they are withchild,” added Masimula.
Masimula shared her hopes for the future of the youth.
“The reality is that teenage pregnancy can never be completely eradicated. It is up to the families and communities to help mould and teach the children the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Schools can also play a role by establishing clinics to counsel students, and supply some form of contraceptive treatment,” advised Masimula.
*Caption: Young female learners roaming around the school during a break