OPINION

Pregnant KZN learners return to school thanks to DA – Zwakele Mncwango

PC says the two Grade 12 students had been suspended by headmaster

DA intervention sees pregnant KZN learners return to school following suspension

18 April 2019

The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal welcomes news that two Grade 12 female learners have returned to school at Ogwini Comprehensive High in uMlazi after being suspended by the Headmaster for being pregnant.

The suspensions, which took place on 8 April 2019, came with the explicit sanction that they only return to school next year. It was also stated that any representations from their parents or guardians for leniency would not be entertained.

At this point, both the learners’ parents sought assistance from the DA who in turn escalated the matter to KZN Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane, calling for his urgent intervention in resolving the matter.

The DA believes that Education is a right, not a privilege and should never be used as an exclusionary tool to sideline, undermine and marginalize young women. With learner drop-out rates in our province already sky-high, the victimization of learners based on gender simply cannot be allowed.

The DA believes that what happened at Ogwini Comprehensive High School is a violation of the basic rights of these young women. We therefore call on MEC Dlungwana to take immediate action against the Headmaster concerned and to send out a clear message that there is no place in our province or our country for educators who have ambitions of running schools in complete autonomy to the constitution of the land.

There are numerous examples of South Africa’s stance on the issue of pregnant learners.  Our country is a signatory to the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) that requires all African member states to take measures to promote keeping girls in school.

Section 9 (3) of our country’s Bill of Rights also says that the state may not discriminate against any person based on gender, sex, pregnancy and marital status while Section 9(4) states no person may discriminate against anyone on these same grounds.

A learner’s right to education during and after their pregnancy is also guaranteed by the South African Constitution and guided by the African Charter on the Rights of the Child, which states in article 11(6) that `State Parties to the Charter shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children who become pregnant before completing their education shall have an opportunity to continue with their education on the basis of their individual ability'.

Events at Ogwini Comprehensive show just how important the role of the opposition is when it comes to holding government accountable and in ensuring that its policies are upheld. The right to basic education is a hard-earned one and it must be protected, treasured and nurtured at all costs, by both government and society.

The DA will continue to monitor this situation. We also call on communities to speak out when their constitutional rights are being undermined. The DA remains committed to fighting for equal rights for all and for fair access to education.

Issued by Zwakele Mncwango, DA KZN Premier Candidate, 18 April 2019