According to a report released by parliament in September, more than 99 000 learners fell pregnant that year in 2013. This was a rise from 68 000 in 2011.
“It is an alarming situation and is unheard of,” Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was quoted saying in a News24 article. It’s a scary situation for the country, but imagine how frightening it must be for the teen girls. We spoke to two young women, who talked about the loneliness and fear of being young and pregnant.
“I got pregnant to make my boyfriend happy, and then he left me”
“When the doctor told me I was pregnant, I was expecting it,” says 17-year-old Unathi*, currently four months pregnant. She and her boyfriend had planned it. In fact, her 25 year-old boyfriend asked for a child so that they could have something to pull them closer together.
But things changed when Unathi fell pregnant. She says her boyfriend was happy at first, “but four weeks down the line he disappeared into thin air. Now I have to live with the decision that we both made.”
She says she feels like the world had turned against her. It’s not just the disappointment and abandonment that Unathi is dealing with, but also a fear that this pregnancy will stop her from accomplishing her life goals. She’s currently in Grade 12, but she is missing revision classes at school in order to go to clinics for check-ups.
She’s also going to miss her matric dance. She also wanted to go to varsity, but no one in her family wants to discuss the subject.
She says check-ups at clinics are difficult, “I feel so embarrassed, because of the negative comments I normally get at clinics from elders in the queue.” One comment that sticks out is when two old women were talking about teenage pregnancy saying, ‘These children are loose, how can they be pregnant at this age’. She immediately knew they were talking about her, because she was the only sitting next to them.
“My mother was so ashamed she sent me away”
When Akhona*, from the Eastern Cape, first heard that she was pregnant, at the age of 16, “everything stopped for a moment and fear took over me.” She was most scared of telling her mother. Akhona and her mother had never talked about sex. “I was so afraid, so I told my aunt, and asked her to tell my mom on my behalf.”
Akhona’s mother did what she thought was best, but it hurt Akhona deeply. “She sent me to my older sister in Cape Town for the remaining four months of my pregnancy, and it broke my heart.”
Teenage pregnancy is viewed as a disgrace in Akhona’s community. She also had to drop out of school, in Grade 10.
After giving birth earlier this year, she moved back home to finish school. She’s currently repeating Grade 10. “I do not blame anyone. Now I have a child, who needs my attention, which means in order to study, I have to wait for him to sleep.”
Akhona says she’s forgiven her mother for sending her away, “I’m moving on with my life; I did not even ask her why she did that.” Her relationship with her mother has since improved. “We are free to talk about sex. She stays with my child while I am at school, she supports me and she even asks if I am using contraceptives.”
Teen moms need all our support – LoveLife
It’s normal for pregnant girls to be scared and confused, says Precious Magogodi from LoveLife. “Some panic and make rash decisions that compromise their health and that of the unborn baby.”
Parents are disappointed, but it does not mean that they don’t care. “Parents should guide you through the process and even accompany you to a healthcare facility,” she adds.
Precious says the government, in partnership with organisations like LoveLife, has tried to make clinics youth friendly, “Many go through training on how to treat young people; to not be judgmental,” she says.
Precious urges young girls not to see a pregnancy as the end of their dreams, “They need to view this as a temporary delay that they can bounce back from.”
LoveLife offers free psycho-social support for teenage moms. You can send a call back to 0833231023 or call 0800121900 to talk to a professional counsellor.
*Names have been changed
Photography by Bulumko Gana
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