Number of pregnant primary school girls rises
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A report compiled by South Africa's Department of Basic Education, released earlier this month, details a litany of negative circumstances under which children are expected to complete their schooling.
The report, "The Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools for 2009-2010", says that:
In Grade 3 alone, about 109 pupils fell pregnant in 2009 - as against "only" 17 in the same grade in 2008. In Grade 4, the number increased to 107 from 69 in 2008, and in Grade 5 297 girls fell pregnant in 2009;
The highest concentration of pregnant pupils was in high schools, from Grade 7 to Grade 9;
In 2009, a total of 45276 girls became pregnant;
Only 25% of ordinary schools had an e-mail address in 2010, and about 54% of schools had land-line telephones. Only 3% of schools in Limpopo had e-mail, compared with 98% in Western Cape, "a glaring inequality"; and
About 26% of schools had multi-grade classes in 2010, most of them in Eastern Cape.
Other societal factors mentioned in the report are that as many as a million children grow up without a father, and many others depend on the extensive social grant network for financial support.
The report, compiled from surveys taken in March every year at public and private schools, deals only with pupils. The department is expected to release the results of its research on teachers at a later stage.
An education specialist warned yesterday that if the problems cited in the report did not receive urgent attention South Africa would pay a high price.
Professor Kobus Maree, a lecturer in educational psychology at the University of Pretoria, said the Grade 3 pregnancy rate was "appalling" and "deeply upsetting". A large number of these children became pregnant because of rape or abuse, he said.
"This is really unacceptable. For all those children who fall pregnant in Grade 3, how many rapists are brought to book? If you look at these figures, that means there are many rapists in the country walking around free."
Maree said teachers to whom he had recently spoken felt that the teaching of life orientation had been dumped on them without adequate training. He recommended that the government make community service compulsory for child psychologists and they be used for teacher training at schools.
Maree said pupils in the higher grades often got pregnant to qualify for social grants.
The number of child grants is a reflection of the reliance of people on the social safety net provided by the government.
The 2813976 children receiving grants in 2009 increased to 3110688 a year later.
In 2010, 37% of all pupils in Eastern Cape and 32% of pupils in Mpumalanga received the monthly grant of R260.
Maree said that, though the government had to shoulder much of the blame, parents were also responsible because they did not give their children sufficient support.
The report shows that in 2010 more than 40% of government schools relied on a principal's cellphone for communication.
Schools in two of the poorest provinces, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, were the most reliant on private cellphones, at 69% and 71% respectively.
Maree said that though the government had allocated a large chunk of its budget to education, incompetent and complacent public officials were not delivering educational infrastructure and other resources.
He cited the Pretoria High Court order that the Basic Education Department deliver textbooks to pupils in Limpopo by June 15.
The government should hire qualified employees to clean up the system - irrespective of politics or race, Maree said.
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