Helvy Shaanika Ongwediva-Barely a teenager, but already a mother: this is the shocking predicament of a number of learners at a primary school in Ruacana Constituency, where close to 30 children left school since 2007 due to early pregnancy. Although the school is now categorised as a combined school, the highest grade offered at Otjaandjamwenyo is Grade 8, which was in fact only introduced at the beginning of the current academic year. Over for the past 10 years, at least 29 pupils from this rural school fell pregnant, of which eight were impregnated last year alone. At the time the school only offered classes up to Grade 7. According the Ministry of Education’s enrollment policy, a child typically starts pre-school at the age of six and Grade 1 at the age of seven. This means some child and teenage pregnancy victims at Otjaandjamwenyo were barely 14 years old. The revelation shocked the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Sanet Steenkamp, who said curbing pregnancy among school-going children should be a collective effort by all stakeholders in education. “This is pure exploitation. It is gross injustice. Where are the regional councillors? Where are the community leaders? Where are the church leaders? Where is the police force? Why are we not working together as a community to address the issue? “Somebody must do something. One child is just too many, but now we are talking about thirty children,” Steenkamp fumed. She said the crisis calls for wider public debate and requires a multi-sectoral approach. Steenkamp pointed out that the ministry has noted that in many instances the perpetrators of child and teenage pregnancies are adult males, who at times are working, but tend to get off scot-free, as the parents of the impregnated pupils protect them. “Parents are protecting impregnators, because the impregnators eventually become the providers,” she observed. Deputy director at the HIV/AIDS management unit in the Ministry of Education Julius Nghifikwa said the ministry has several programmes in place to curb teenage pregnancy. Among the programmes, is the 'My Future is my Choice and Race' programme. Each school also has a life skills teacher, who teaches children about the risks of irresponsible sexual behaviour, among other topics of interest. “But education should start at home and then it proceeds to school,” Nghifikwa said. He added that Otjaandjamwenyo predominantly accommodates children from Ovahimba communities, where cultural practices - including harmful ones - still play a major role. “At times you would find children from the Ovahimba community leaving school to go and get married and get back to school after the proceedings,” he said. Contacted for comment, Commissioner Tylves Kampolo, the regional commander of Omusati police, said of late there were no cases of statutory rape reported to his office. He noted that proper investigations are needed to determine whether the impregnated pupils were indeed under-aged. “That school is among the Ovahimba community and Ovahimba children go to school at a later age. We cannot just conclude now and say they were indeed underage,” he said.
2017-08-18 10:29:05 1 years ago