The Department of Basic Education recently released statistics for the years 2010 to 2014, which places the province among those with the highest rates in the country with a recorded 28322 pregnancies.
The Eastern Cape department of education has described the results as shocking and an embarrassment, and called on parents to be stricter.
Sophathisana Senior Secondary School in Reeston, East London, recorded the highest rate in the country last year, with a reported 74 pregnancies.
Ten primary schools in the province reported a total of 232 cases.
The Daily Dispatch yesterday spoke to two teenage mothers, both pupils at Sophathisana, who said the school was silent on the situation.
The two, aged 16 and 17, gave birth in June and August last year.
One of the pupils, who is in Grade 11 this year, said there were about seven pregnant girls in her grade last year.
“The teachers didn’t say a word about the pregnancies. They were never harsh and many of us thought this was fine. Many thought getting pregnant was cool – there’s just no guidance,” said the teenager.
The 16-year-old said many managed to hide their pregnancies and “secretly delivered” without their teachers noticing.
“After I gave birth, I took four days off and I was back at school.
“No one noticed I was pregnant. A number managed to hide while a few were noticed in the last few months of their pregnancy,” said the teenager.
“Some were teased by their friends.”
The 17-year-old teenager’s mother described the situation at Sophathisana as an “embarrassment”, saying the school should have called a meeting with parents of affected pupils to discuss the situation.
The Daily Dispatch has not been able to contact the principal for comment.
Education spokesman Mali Mtima described the situation as an embarrassment.
“Parents need to act as this is bad for our education. This matter must be solved both by parents, the community and teachers. They all need to be actively involved,” said Mtima.
Spokesman for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Elijah Mhlanga, echoed the same sentiments, adding parents must be responsible and not leave parenting to the state.
“The high proportion of unintended pregnancies for teenagers in South Africa remains a serious problem,” he said.
“Pregnant learners speaks to a serious societal challenge that will take active involvement of parents and all of society to address,” said Mhlanga.
He said pregnancy was posing a serious threat to gains achieved in public schools.
“Teenage pregnancy undermines the department’s efforts to ensure girl children remain in school, in order to contribute towards a quality life for all, free of poverty.”
Mhlanga said the department was in the process of finalising a pregnancy policy, where the main focus will be on education.
“There are programmes to further strengthen the sex education curriculum within our schools.”
Educational psychologist Sheryl Maastrecht said the teenagers had to be responsible as well.
“The worrying factor, first, is they are engaging in sex without protection. What about HIV-Aids?
“What about teenage boys who are engaging with these girls?
“This is an ongoing problem and some teenagers think the social grants they get are salaries. This need to be addressed.”
Eastern Cape South African Social Security Agency’s spokesman Luzuko Qina said a recent study conducted revealed beyond reasonable doubt that the child support grant was not causing teenagers to fall pregnant.
— BONGANI FUZILE/DispatchLIVE