REHOBOTH, 04 JUN – Principals and life skills teachers in Hardap appear to struggle with implementing the learner pregnancy policy and feel embarrassed when dealing with pregnant learners, the region’s education director, Mzingisi Gqwede has said.
In an interview with Nampa on Saturday, Gqwede said his office has of late been flooded with questions from parents and community leaders wanting to know how principals in the region apply the policy.
“Some principals are secretly talking to the parents of pregnant learners, asking them to take the learners out of school for a year or so,” the director said.
He said this compromises the implementation of the Education Sector Policy on Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy of 2009.
“It’s not about how we feel about learner pregnancy, it’s about the girl child being afforded the opportunity to complete school,” Gqwede said.
The education director warned that principals should stop showing pregnant learners the door and to implement the policy in order to maximise education opportunities for girls.
He further said teaching of life skills to prevent learner pregnancy should be strengthened by all schools and in the event that pregnancy occurs, it has to be managed.
“I personally presented the policy to both the principals and life skills teachers in the Hardap Region. To see schools now implementing their own policies is not right as schools are implementers of national policies,” he said.
The policy is based on national legislation and international agreements signed by the Namibian Government.
In 2008, the Legal Assistance Centre was asked to create a new policy in conjunction with the education ministry.
Feedback based on input from, amongst others, learners, principals, teachers, regional education officers and counsellors was incorporated into a working draft, which was endorsed by the Ministerial Planning and Coordinating Committee in April 2009 and approved by Cabinet in October 2009.
“The policy was developed through extensive, intensive and multidisciplinary consultations with people from all regions of Namibia,” Gqwede said.
The ultimate goal of the policy is to decrease the number of learner pregnancies and increase the number of learner-parents who complete their education based on six pillars – the right to education, prevention, information, respect, support and respect for culture and family.
Among others, it allows pregnant learners to remain in school until four weeks before the due date.
With regards to respecting differing cultural and family values, Gqwede said the government’s role is to provide a flexible policy which maximises education opportunities for pregnant learners and learner-parents.
However, the policy allows for different family and cultural values to determine the timing and manner in which learners take advantage of the opportunities offered and emphasises ongoing communication between the school and family.
“What the policy does not allow is for one’s family or community values to be imposed on other families and communities. Therefore, it allows pregnant girls to remain in school until four weeks before the due date, but it does not require that they do so,” he said.