By Luqman Cloete
OVER 4 000 girls dropped out of school in Namibia due to pregnancy in 2016, Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Jennifer van der Heever revealed at a public hearing on the impact of teenage pregnancies held at Keetmanshoop yesterday.
The parliamentary standing committee on human resources and community development also noted that the figure dwarfed the 2015 figure of 1 843, and that of 2014, which was 1 790.
"These figures are very worrisome," Van der Heever said.
The committee is conducting regional public hearings for inputs on a motion on teenage pregnancy tabled in the National Assembly by the PDM's Elma Dienda in September last year.
Some attendees at yesterday's public hearing said the government's teenage pregnancy policy, designed to support pupils who fall pregnant to complete their education, was not yielding the desired results.
According to the pregnancy policy, a pupil may continue attending school until a month before her expected delivery date.
After giving birth, a girl may continue her education if a social worker is satisfied that the infant would be cared for responsibly, and that a healthcare provider had stated that the young mother was in a suitable state of health and well-being.
Before the introduction of the policy, girls who fell pregnant at school were mostly not able to continue their education.
Asking whether the current pregnancy policy was effective, PK de Villiers Secondary School head girl suggested that girls who fell pregnant should take a whole year to raise their child before being allowed back at school.
PK de Villiers headmaster Pieter Skeyer said he was in support of the pregnancy policy, but hastened to say that each pregnancy should be looked at individually for the policy to "bear fruits".
"We need to look at different scenarios," he suggested, while supporting the idea that girls who fall pregnant should take off a year before returning to school.
"Teachers are also not prepared to deal with girls before and after birth," he remarked.
Former //Karas governor Stephanus Goliath, who is the /Hai-/Khaua Nama sub-tribe's deputy headman, wanted to know what should be done to prevent pupils from having sex.
"Policies will not help, sex will take place," he stated.
He said it was important to identify and punish adults who were impregnating girls.
"Otherwise, the talk show will just continue," he observed, and also called for the closure of shebeens.
"Youth frequent shebeens and clubs, where there is no control. We need to create more institutions where a positive change of mindset for the youth will take place," he stressed.
Mother-pupil of JA Nel High School, Jaudien Muriame (19), said boys also needed to be educated on the impact of teenage pregnancy, and urged mother-pupils to share their experiences with fellow pupils.
PK de Villiers School board member Joy Hartung said teenage pregnancy rates in the //Karas region were shocking, and revealed that girls as young as 11 have fallen pregnant in the region.
"If this trend continues, we will have no future," she cautioned.
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