Falling pregnant while in school is probably the scariest and most confusing thing that can happen to any girl. What do you do? Who do you speak to? Most importantly, what are your rights? Here’s information that could help you.
Your right to learn
South Africa is governed by a Constitution and Bill of Rights, which state that every child has the right to a basic education. Under these laws, schools are also not allowed to discriminate against learners based on gender or pregnancy. This means that you have the right to go to your classes if you’re pregnant, teachers can’t refuse you an education and they can’t impose any fines or ask you to bring a family member to supervise you. You can’t be expelled or suspended for falling pregnant either- as long as your doctor says that you’re fit to attend class, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be in school.
Your right to dignity and privacy
Your school shouldn’t discriminate against you or demand that you write tests and exams separately from other learners. Any punishment or public humiliation because a learner is pregnant is considered a violation of the learner’s rights and they can take this to the Department of Basic Education. Your school could also have rules which state that other learners are required to tell teachers or the principal if they think you’re pregnant, which basically violates your right to privacy. While you do have to let the school know so that they can help you keep up with all your schoolwork when you’ve got doctor’s appointments and when you’re preparing to have your baby, you and your parents or guardian are the only people your school should discuss your pregnancy with.
You shouldn’t miss out on work
You’re probably going to be away from school for some time while you have your baby, but this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on work. Your school should either send you the work you need to do while you’re away or help you set up a catch-up plan when you get back. You’re allowed to go back as soon as your doctor says you can so you shouldn’t miss out on too much.
Help is available
If you feel your rights have been disregarded in any way, you or your parents are allowed to request a meeting with the school principal. If this isn’t helpful, you can contact the Department of Education for your school’s district. There are also a number of organisations such as Section 27 and the Centre for Child Law, that you can get in touch with if you don’t get any assistance from your school, district department, and the Department of Basic Education. If all you’re looking for is a shoulder to cry on, you can contact Lifeline for counselling services.
Unplanned pregnancy can be a major cause of stress and anxiety, especially if you’re still in school. It doesn’t have to be the reason you drop out of school though, so know your rights, prioritise your education and make use of all the support resources available to you. Good luck!