SCHOOLGIRLS who fall pregnant while at school must not be expelled but be allowed to continue with their studies if they wish to proceed as provided for by Statutory Instruments 362 and 363 of 1998, an official has said.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Matabeleland South Legal Services and Discipline officer Mrs Sihle Nkala told delegates who attended a Masakhaneni Projects Trust conference in Bulawayo last week that heads and school authorities were not empowered to dismiss pregnant pupils. Mrs Nkala said all schools and their heads that expel female learners after they fall pregnant were violating the policy which is entailed in document P35 of the Ministry.
“Our policy is that all children should go to school. This is provided for by the Constitution which says every citizen has a right to education and as such pregnant school girls are also children and citizens. The policy says the head, after finding out, should contact the parents of the girl first and summon them to the school. After informing the parents and determining whether the pregnancy was a result of mutually consented sex or rape, the parents should make a decision whether the girl remains in school or drops out,” said Mrs Nkala.
She said if the parents are willing that their child continue learning, schools should provide support systems as set out by the Ministry’s policy. The support systems include guidance and counselling as well as constant monitoring. She, however, said the policy was not applicable to boys who must be expelled from school if they impregnate a female learner.
Mrs Nkala said a boy who impregnate another learner must be expelled and wait for a year before readmitted at another school.
The ministry, she added, introduced non-formal education in 2015 to cater for 1,2 million school drop outs who fell by the sideway due to different reasons. She said the programme allowed drop outs to further their academic education or acquire vocational training. Masakhaneni Trust has been working with schools and the ministry to try and help girls who would have dropped out of school to return to the class.