The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo is engaged in finalising the first of a kind draft bill to be presented for Parliamentary approval. The proposed Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy Bill is aimed at addressing a social ill that has thus far largely been ignored, despite the ever escalating scourge contributing to an estimated half of learners countrywide dropping out during their school careers.
It was learnt that the draft bill, which is in its final stages of completion, still had to be approved by the DA Caucus and Portfolio Committee on Education in Parliament before being presented to the National Assembly by DA Parliamentarian Desiree van der Walt.
The proposed bill, a Limpopo initiative based on Limpopo statistics and the result of months of extensive research and consultation, is expected to be tabled and debated in Parliament next month. DA Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle said the bill would be the second originating from Limpopo, the first being a private draft bill tabled in the Legislature in 2009 which suggested the prevention of government employees from doing business with the State. He referred to related regulations having been introduced nationally in the meantime. Also amendments to the Lotteries Act had been made after proposals he had initiated in 2012.
Quoting the latest figures of almost one million learners, including an estimated 600 000 girls, not finishing school in South Africa, Smalle said even if the suggested bill could assist 25 to 30% of drop-outs to finish school it would relieve the burden in bad economic conditions. It would be a small step, but one in the right direction, he added.
If adopted, the law would offer a home grown solution to an ever increasing situation that merely promotes the empowerment of one half of learners occupying school desks and not the other half that includes scores of girls affected by pregnancy. The document proposes a multi-disciplinary approach to dealing with the issues resultant from learners falling pregnant. The adoption thereof might very well change the fate of scores of Limpopo girls who get prevented from attending school due to stigmatisation and factors that compel a young mother to stay home, such as the perceived lack of educator support. With the proposal the DA in Limpopo further took into consideration factors such as the alleged contravention of the South African Schools Act compelling children to attend school up to the age of 15 and statistics pointing at Limpopo girls as young as 11 years falling pregnant.
In the case of the act being approved, it would position school principals in a pivotal role of ensuring gender-specific support to affected parties by a system that would also grant coordinating authorities to delegated officials within line departments.
The objects of the proposed act include provision for the implementation of measures and programmes to prevent and reduce the number of learner pregnancies countrywide, for the management of learner pregnancy when it occurs, to introduce measures that will support pregnant learners, expectant learner fathers as well as their parents and for fair and equal treatment of pregnant learners and expectant learner fathers.
Story: YOLANDE NEL