Views closed on pregnancy policy

THE public comment period on the Department of Basic Education’s Draft Learner Pregnancy Policy closed on July 31 and both parents and organisations across the country made their varying submissions.

According to the department the policy recognised the high rate and impact of pregnancy among pupils and the policy aims to “stabilise and reduce” the incidents of pregnancy in pupils and its adverse effect on the education system.

The draft policy includes among other things promoting safe-sex education, the distribution and access of condoms in schools, school counselling and planned parenting advice for pupils.

Also, it will ensure schools provide a stigma-free, non-discriminatory and non-judgmental environment for pregnant pupils, pre- and post-delivery, to support their physical and psychological health and dignity and that those who breach these rules by discriminating against affected pupils could face disciplinary action.

The department says on the draft policy that it aims to protect the pupils’ basic rights to education, non-discrimination, privacy, bodily and psychological integrity and dignity. Among other contributors is the ChristianView Network who made a 13-page submission.

The organisation claims that the proposed policy promotes, among other things, planned parenting in schools which they believe promotes abortions. Also, that it is alien to South African ethics and culture or South African education law. “Comprehensive and incomprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)’ of the policy means children are taught everything, every sexual alternative and abortion in a manner that legitimises and normalises it without protection of their innocence,” said Philip Rosenthal from the network. Rosenthal said the policy also normalises under-age sex rather than treating it as “statutory rape”, with protection against disciplinary action for the father.

“The policy drafters arrogantly expect parents and school governing bodies to implement the plan but don’t ask their consent (Preamble, 5.10, 6.1.5, 6.5.4, .5.5). There is no provision for parents to opt-in or opt-out of the policy. It insultingly assumes that their protection of the innocence of their children by delaying ‘sex education’ or teaching it differently to CSE is ‘inadequate’ (S6.2.6),” said Rosenthal.

He said the policy is fundamentally flawed and needed to be “scrapped” as people with such an ideology in the education sector were a danger to children.

“If the Department [of Education] feels the need for a learner-pregnancy policy, they need to start again with a new team and a fresh policy. If promulgated it will be very strongly resisted,” said Rosenthal.

Parents on the South Coast had mixed reactions to the policy with some arguing that the policy would be counter-productive and encouraging pupils to fall pregnant instead of preventing it. Other said it would protect those affected, others were still sceptical that it would not be properly implemented even if were enacted.

“We parents are trying hard to mould our children for the better but the laws of this country continue to destroy them,” said Mosimo Mathole.

“We have very good policies in our Education Act, but none are enforced. It’s hard to find a 13-year-old virgin these days. It’s now that the policy needs to be enforced more than ever. We also have 18-year-old sexually active so-called children in Grade 7, where the normal age for this group is 12 and 13. So yes, that policy also needs to be looked at,” said Colleen Barnard.

“It is a big problem, both poor and rich families are facing these issues. Education starts at home. Family values have to be put first. Girls need to be treasured and have parents to constantly check on them. Our mothers did it well. Let’s go back to the drawing board and do things right. Technology has contributed to what we are seeing these days too,” Eugene Erasmus said, adding that the education of pupils should be taken to entire communities and not just schools and government departments.