WINDHOEK - Adults who have no affiliation with the schools but impregnate learners will be dealt with in accordance with relevant national laws protecting children from sexual violence.
These were the words of caution by Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who however says the new Education Bill will ensure that male learner fathers are not punished with removal from education.
The minister said this while responding to questions raised by different Members of Parliament (MPs) last week in the National Assembly during the debate on the Education Bill, which is before the house for consideration and approval.
Some questions raised needed clarity on Section 13 of the Bill dealing with prevention and management of learner pregnancy.
She explained that impregnating a learner under the age of 16 is statutory rape according to the Combating of Rape Act, 2000 (Act No.8 of 2000). Therefore, such a person who impregnates such a learner must be reported to the relevant authorities.
MPs wanted to know how will this be practically implemented and who will report the case to the minister.
She responded that regardless of age, a teacher must not have an intimate relationship with a learner because they are entrusted to look after the learners and would thus be charged with misconduct as per the Public Service Staff Rules. “However, even if the intimate relationship between a learner and teacher might not be considered a criminal offence, the school must initiate disciplinary measures against the teacher,” she noted.
She said the code of conduct for teaching service will be strengthened to address the issue of teachers impregnating learners.
In terms of staff members impregnating learners, she maintained the ministry cannot intervene where inappropriate conduct is not reported.
Therefore, she urged parents, community members and staff members in the schools to take responsibility to report inappropriate relationships between teachers and learners.
“Intimate relationship with a learner above the age of 16, will be considered rape if coercive circumstances under the Combatting of Rape Act apply and this applies to any child and any adult, even if the learner is above 16-years,” she cautioned.
According to her, a person who impregnates a learner above the age of 16, has a civil obligation towards the learner and the child to be born but no criminal liability can arise from that.
She encouraged parents and guardians to be vocal against perpetuators and report to the relevant authorities.
With regard to re-admission of a learner to school, as per Clause 13 sub-clause (3), she says any learner, irrespective of age who is in the school system at the time of becoming pregnant, should be re-admitted to school after she has given birth.
The Education Sector Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy has set guidelines on the procedures to be followed. With regards to the boy learner, in line with the principle of the right to education for all, rehabilitation and counselling will be conducted with the respective learner father.
She emphasised that education alone cannot solve some of these social challenges. “Children do not live in a vacuum, but with parents, guardians and in communities. It should be our joint responsibility as parliamentarians and policy makers to work together with communities to address some challenges facing our young people,” she maintained.