by Sakeus Iikela, Khanyiswa Mogotsi and Maria Hamutenya

ABOUT 3 500 pupils fell pregnant between 2017 and 2018, leading to more than 2 000 of them dropping out of school during the same period.

A recent report submitted to the National Assembly this week shows that about 1 440 fell pregnant in five northern regions in 2018, while about 2 000 pupils fell pregnant in 2017.

The report stated that the majority of the girls who fell pregnant either dropped out of school, or found it difficult to return to school.

The report was compiled by the parliamentary standing committee on human resources and community development, following regional visits by parliamentarians to eight northern regions between May and August 2018.

The committee conducted public hearings at various schools with teachers, pregnant pupils, traditional authorities, parents and government institutions.

The report stated that teenage pregnancy was a huge concern in the country as it deprives teenagers of the right to realise their goals.

“When learners fall pregnant, their performance drops. Also, too much stress on pregnant pupils can lead to miscarriages and premature labour,” the report added.

It detailed how several socio-economic challenges, including unemployment and poverty, are among the contributing factors to the high rate of teenage pregnancy.

Other causes were community hostels, unprotected sex among teenagers, the social structure (family set-up), cultural and religious beliefs, and a lack of parental guidance, amongst other things.

The education ministry’s spokesperson, Absalom Absalom, told Namibia University of Science and Technology publication Nust Echoes that teenage pregnancy in schools could be attributed to a number of factors, ranging from cultural practices, drug and alcohol abuse, socio-economic status, peer pressure and early engagement in sexual activity.

“A further factor which must not be underestimated is that many pregnancies may be the result of forced sex rather than free choice, or risky sexual behaviour,” he said.

He added that half of the girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the country are sexually active, as well as two-thirds of the boys in that age group. This is despite discussing sexuality widely being deemed a “taboo” in Namibia.

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*This article was first published 1 November 2019 through a partnership between The Namibian and the Namibia University of Science and Technology’s news service, Nust Echoes.

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