Clarity on Teenage Pregnancy at Bothithong HS

  

On Wednesday, 30 August 2017, when the news broke that 30 learners from Bothithong HS alleged that they have been impregnated by teachers, left us in utter shock and disbelief. What was more alarming to us, was the fact that we have learnt about this through the media. I must indicate, that this story broke national news, without any media house awaiting response from our Department relating to this matter.

As a department, we belief that this story was blown out of proportion, as it did not contain accurate information on the status quo at this school. Although, this is a very serious matter, you have a responsibility to be accurate and factual at all times. The same way that we have a responsibility to provide quality education in all our schools, you have a responsibility to do investigative journalism as your work impacts on the lives of individuals.

The reason why we have called this press briefing, is to put the record straight on all the allegations made at this school.

 


Teenage Pregnancy at Bothithong HS

The media alleged multiple pregnant learners at Bothitong High School, which implicated educators relating impregnating of 30 learners. According to our records, over the past 3 years at this school, 16 learners fell pregnant. In 2015, two learners, in 2016, four learners and in 2017, 10 learners. Currently at the school, there are 6 learners pregnant. Without a doubt, teenage pregnancy, especially in the John Toalo Gaetsewe District is impacting on the quality of education negatively.

The Northern Cape Department of Education as part of our responsibility to educate our learners have introduced the Emancipation of the Girl Child Learner programme to actively engage pupils on matters that may negatively affect their schooling career.

In most cases, learners are exposed to social ills that are prevalent in our communities which leads to teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse. These factors contribute significantly to the early drop out of learners. In return, these learners will not be able to participate in our economy as they will not meet the minimum requirement of the job market.

The Curriculum is designed and aimed at supporting the cognitive development of learners to enhance their personal decision making skills for responsible social behavioural conduct. In support to the Curriculum programme, we engage learners through different activities, particularly designed to handle all social ills. These programmes include; Peer Education, Educator and Learner Life Skills Training, Social mobilization with communities and school based advocacy, as well as Care and Support programmes for all vulnerable learners to be referred.

 


Investigation at Bothithong HS

The Department immediately dispatched a experienced team of investigators to the Bothithong High School to investigate the allegations, to provide sufficient information to assess and inform decisions to be made in relation to invoking disciplinary processes against implicated educators and to provide counseling to the affected learners and staff.


The investigation revealed that there are no educators preliminary implicated in impregnating of any learner, however the investigation did reveal that there are three (3) educators implicated in allegedly making improper sexual advances towards learners. In terms of the Disciplinary Code for Educators (Schedule 2 of the Employment of Educators Act no 79 of 1998) in cases of alleged serious misconduct, the employer may suspend the alleged perpetrator to ensure that the witnesses are not intimidated or unduly influenced. The Department has already drawn up preliminary precautionary suspension letters for the three affected educators. In the letters, the affected educators are requested to provide, within 5 working days, reasons why they should not put on precautionary suspension. This is a mandatory process in terms of precautionary suspension procedures.

The investigation is still ongoing and the Northern Cape Department of Education remains committed to the protection of the rights of all learners, but it is crucial to ensure that all legislative process are followed because South African law is based on giving all a fair opportunity to state their case.

It has also been reported that two of the implicated educators have been arrested by the South African Police Services. It is important to note, that criminal procedures and disciplinary processes are different and is governed by different legislation.  The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond reasonable doubt, and in a disciplinary case it is on a balance of probability.  In the event that charges are withdrawn in the criminal case it does not mean it has any bearing on the disciplinary case.

The suspension of the educators was done in terms of item 6 of the Schedule 2 of the Employment of Educators Act (Disciplinary Code for Educators) that states;

“In the case of serious misconduct in terms of section 17, the employer may suspend the educator on full pay…”

In the case at hand, the allegation is of a serious nature and relates to section 17 of the Employment of Educators Act.  The purpose of the suspension is to ensure that the learners in question are protected from possible further emotional and physical distress, to ensure that there is no tempering with witnesses and that the department’s name is not brought into disrepute. Once the process of investigation is completed, the employer will only then decide on any further action to be taken on this matter.

 


Way Forward

The Department will continue to support all our schools, especially in the John Toalo Gaetsewe District, through the Emancipation of the Girl Child programme to prevent learners from becoming part of the statistics and to actively engaged boys and girls of a schooling age on these the topics of teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse. As communities we have a responsibility to guard our children against these evils that have already destroyed so many lives and prosperous futures of our youth. The new democratic dispensation in South Africa have brought about freedom and democracy, coupled with a number of opportunities and initiatives for especially our youth to pursue.

Adolescence is a critical period of development where young girls and boys are grappling with issues of self identity and are bombarded by social challenges of HIV/AIDS, sexuality, alcohol and drug abuse. The Department will lead a integrated collaboration programme between the Department of Education, Health, Social Development and Lovelife over the next two weeks, targeting 10 schools in the District, including the Bothitong High School.

As the Department, we remain committed to the realisation of a better and more prosperous future for our beautiful country. It is our collective responsibility as Government and the society at large to protect our children and learners at all costs to ensure that they complete their school academic career and have access to these opportunities that awaits them. Therefore we believe that these programme will have the desired impact on all our learners to prevent, abstain  and realise their responsibility to remain committed to their studies towards a successful future. We urge all our school communities to join us in advocating, that Education is indeed a societal matter.

End.