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Angie not to blame for teen pregnancy but…

The world’s super-teacher, Ron Clark, recently told CNN how he “met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state”. “She was loved and adored by all but she told me she was leaving the profession. I screamed ‘you can’t leave us’ and she quite bluntly replied ‘look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can’t deal with parents any more; they are killing us’. ”

Clark says this is becoming more and more prevalent in the US with teachers citing the problems they have with the parents as the reason they decide to leave. I believe this is the case here too. But instead of the principal washing her hands of the parents and children it is Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Motshekga raised the ire of parents (again) in the Northern Cape last week when she said pregnancies among school children had got nothing to do with her, her department or her teachers.

“Teenage pregnancy is a problem imported to schools by homes and the community,” she said at the seating of the National Council of Provinces in De Aar. “They (children) don’t have sex at schools, they have sex at homes … we don’t provide beds, we provide pens and books.” What Motshekga is basically declaring is that her department has got nothing to do with the raising of the children apart from teaching them how to add and subtract numbers. Full stop!

When I was growing up I found refuge in school. That’s where I was taught how to face the world and how to prevent diseases by washing my hands. Many of us come from the rural areas where many parents and the elders are illiterate. Many of the parents in the village haven’t gone to school beyond standard six. And they don’t know much about sex education. This means the only place where many learn about issues beyond how to milk a cow is in class and at school minister Motshekga.

We live in tough times where HIV is a problem. Many parents don’t know this. In addition, talking about sex with your child is seen as taboo and disrespectful. Often young girls don’t even tell their parents they’ve started menstruating. That’s how difficult it is for children in rural areas like De Aar to talk to their parents about sex and pregnancy. Rural parents themselves have happily delegated this role to the teachers. And Minister Motshekga knows this very well.

How many times have you heard a parent scold a child saying: Kganthe ba le ruta enge ko sekolong? (What do they teach you at school?) It’s because traditionally parents have faith in the school system to take over some responsibilities. That’s why they send their kids and some spend lots of money for this.

Motshekga has effectively said to the teachers that “yours is just to break the chalk and leave at the end of the day”. Her remarks are in direct contrast to those of her predecessor, Naledi Pandor, who in 2007 campaigned for sex education to form the basis of basic education. Pandor was worried about the number of teenage pregnancies and the spread of HIV/Aids among learners. Pandor introduced measures strongly focusing on prevention, highlighting the importance of sex education, HIV and Aids programmes.

The measures also provided for guidelines to be followed when schoolgirls fall pregnant while at school. Motshekga should have instead told her teachers to continue where Pandor left off. Sex education is a responsibility for all. If I were her I would be worried when StatsSA revealed that 160 754 schoolgirls fell pregnant between July 2008 and July 2010.

That’s a worrying figure in a country battling with HIV. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and President Jacob Zuma want condoms to be distributed at schools. I know some of my friends would have differing views on this. But it’s worth debating. “What can the government do when these kids already know so much when they r young,” said a friend on Facebook, Ntate Joe Mange. “Minister is partly right, she’s not entirely 2 blame 4 teenage pregnancy, but tht does not mean she cn’t do nothing abt it,” Malebo Mampotse Mangena said. “Parenting should be left to parents, teaching to teachers … I personally think government can never replace parents as the primary educators of their children. No one knows your kids like you do,” added Daniel Kayz Mangena.

Sure this kind of responsibility cannot be left to the teachers and Motshekga. But the minister cannot make such reckless comments. But parents also need to come on board. And yes, teachers are at times limited on how much they can parent.

“For starters, we are educators, not nannies,” says Clark. “We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer.”

Whatever the view, we should not forget that it takes a village (and a classroom) to raise a child.


  • Isaac Mangena is a Chapter Nine Communicator slash activist. He has spent much of the past ten years of his life in a newsroom. He is a former TV and Newspaper journalist who focuses on African and international news. He previously worked for Media24 and Agence France-Presse. Isaac holds a BA Psychology degree from the University of the North (now Limpopo). He reads, writes and critique – a lot.


  1. Mr. Direct Mr. Direct 12 November 2012

    Parents should not be given an easy ride. The goverment did not have the child, the parents did.

    Too many times, bad parenting is the reason for issues in society.

    So, Directly: if you do not want to have or raise a child, then do not have one. If you had one by mistake, then take responsibility for your actions and bite the bullet.

    Teach the parents, and the children….

  2. Rich Brauer Rich Brauer 12 November 2012

    If I can, I want to address the tweet from Daniel Kayz Mangena: “No one knows your kids like you do”.

    I don’t know if that’s true.

    How many parents have to leave their homes before 6 in the morning? Heck, some of them are leaving at 4 and earlier to commute to work. And getting home correspondingly late in the evening or night?

    How many hours per week are those parents able to spend with their children? (Please bear in mind, I’m not blaming those parents — they’re doing that for work, to put food on the table and pay school fees.) But maybe, in some cases, their teachers actually get to know their children better.

    And that’s not to mention the number of children who don’t live with their parents, who are migrating to find work and leaving their children at home.

    I think Ron Clark would be the first to tell you that the US hasn’t figured it out — they spend more than anyone, and don’t have the results to show it. I recall seeing a Though Leader Reader Blog not too long ago from a woman teaching in South Korea. They get great results from their students, but she (and others) were worried about both the rote nature of learning, and the amount of time that those students were in the classroom, and not learning socialization.

    Education reform is a hard subject anywhere. But I think you have to go into it questioning all the “facts” that we might just accept otherwise.

  3. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 12 November 2012

    I must admit that I could not believe that a MOTHER had said that. The idea that our minister of education could ‘wash her hands’ of children dropping out of school was mind boggling.

    We force children as young as 9 to become the ‘parent’ to their siblings, we have daily stories of school teachers having ‘affairs’ with students or parents taking money to not report rape – how is that not a problem for every single person in SA?

    Nobody is asking Angie to follow kids around, they are just asking her to make schools a haven and to teach children what their parents cannot teach them. You can hardly expect a 35 year old woman who has 8 children to pass on good advice to her daughters and sons about birth control (obviously she hasn’t figured out what is causing all the babies so she can’t pass on the knowledge).

    Passing this off as ‘it isn’t my problem’ is short sighted in the extreme. No, it isn’t her problem – but it IS the problem that her children will be forced to deal with.

    (we won’t even mention how completely inhumane it is)

  4. Lihle Lihle 13 November 2012

    Isaac, whilst I appreciate your point regarding the fact that children spend most their time at school and that parents may not necessarily be sufficiently educated to assist their children. However, that is not reason enough for families to abdicate responsibility for raising their children. The values that children live by need to be enculcated first at home and these nurtured at school. The responsibility of enculturating our children appropriately can not be the sole responsibility of the education system. As a nation we need to start being accountable we cannot always expect that some amorphous being/system out there will do what needs to be done. We need to ask ourselves what’s my role, what can I do? How can I help and make a meaningful contribution, whether or not I am educated or not.

  5. Mack Nyati Mack Nyati 13 November 2012

    “…we should not forget that it takes a village (and a classroom) to raise a child.”

    Mr Mangena. That saying is so profound, but is least understood by many today.

    As an uncle myself I have been approached by many youngsters in the extended family about intimate matters, which they cannot discuss with their own parents. I do the best I can to offer advice. But the fact remains… I am not able to give the same advice to my own kids!
    Why? It is because our old African traditional ways have not prepared us for this role/necessity of practising open communication with our children.

    Teachers at school, fortunately or unfortunately, are better placed to advise the children because of their authoritative/professional (but non-biological) bond they share with the children.

    So, Minister Motshekga must exercise some wisdom when she speaks, as an African mother, and not blunder about dealing with delicate topics such as teen-age pregnancy in schools…

  6. Skerrminkel Skerrminkel 13 November 2012

    You are right.The comment should, however, not be read out of context. I have not read or heard the speech, but sometimes the parents should also reminded of their duty. Maybe telling them that it is not the school’s responsibility to protect their kids against unsafe sex is necessary every now and then.

  7. maggielou maggielou 13 November 2012

    Oh, for the valuable lessons we learnt at school – just a simple school.

    How sad for our country where we have so many disfunctional families and children whose parents are out working all day (like mine was). Then we also had Sunday school which taught me values that I still live by,

    What a shame that it seems an easier solution to supply condoms instead of teaching responsiblity, moral values and sex education. Isn’t abstinence a form of self-discipline?

  8. just a thought just a thought 13 November 2012

    Very interesting article Isaac.

    I believe that sex as a subject is still taboo because of the hyper conservative past South Africa is emerging from. Most parents avoid it like the plague, so having sex education as a formal subject in schools will provide teachers with the authority and platform to deseminate the knowledge and tools for kids to take an informed decision of their own.

    At University every nook and cranny was filled by amorous students who come from strict family and/or cultural backgrounds where couples are shaparoned 24/7 and are thus never allowed time to themselves.

    Today, kids are “growing up” more quickly that they should be and thus any environment away from the watchful eye of parents is more than likely seen as a good opportunity to explore what is blatant on tv and marketing/advertising campaigns.

    So yes, the schools should be tackling this subject head on and explaining the implications for their futures should they have children before they leave school. This forces young people to divert resources away from future studies or their own goals to ensure that their babies get fed/clothed/schooled etc. STDs and HIV/Aids has a similar impact on kids futures.

    So i believe school is a good forum to address this issue and the parents should be required to assist with the homework for these classes. Then everybody gets their eyes opened to this subject.

  9. Parents Parents 13 November 2012

    Growing up I refrained from sex and then later used condoms because I was too scared of my parents wrath if they found out. They made it very clear that sex was for adults and that babies should bewanted and carefully planned so as to provide them with a stable environment and upbringing. We had the sex talk at school once, when we were about 11 and it was made clear that you simply did not engage in sex as a child. So we were infomred about sex and knew how everything worked, but equally we were told that it was just not acceptable for children to engage in it. Do we do that now or have we changed our minds to believe that it is OK for kids to have sex?

    All cultures have issues around sex talk. Many parents are selfish and just plain lazy. They don’t bother to support their kids’ school activities, wont fetch and carry for sport, don’t care if they drop them off late for school every day and heavens forbid that they should even check that homework is done, let alone supervise it. The teacher has the child for about 5 hours a day – one of 30 – 40 in a class. Teachers generally rotate per subject, so no class sits with the same teacher every single day. Lets get real. No teacher can raise someone else’s child, nor should they be responsible for teaching them discipline (only enforcing it in the classroom) or morality. Parents should be teaching the difference between right and wrong, not teachers. How can we expect our kids to grow up if we won’t?

  10. Twinkiebel Twinkiebel 14 November 2012

    I totally agree that charity begins at home and that teachers are not entirely liable for the upbringing of learners.However, we cannot afford to lose the spirit of community and Ubuntu as a South Africa that aspires for a brighter future.I strongly believe that it takes a nation to nuture a child.Deferring responsibility from oarent to teacher/system will not solve the issue.The issue can only be solve by a nation willing to collaborate in order to move forward.

    And for Minister of Basic Education to utter such wreckless comments is saddening because it just outlines the crisis in education that we have in this country – from head of state education to the pregnant child. South Africa’s education system is ranked 140 out of 144, one of the WORST in the world. But of course this does not strike our minister as any crisis because it does not seem to be any of her interest to better this.However, we as a society cannot afford to just sit back and watch our demise and we cannot expect the gran raising her granchildren to address these kinds of issues.We as intelligent young individuals should take the initiative to bring awareness of the importance of education and come up with sound solutions to address this issue. Perhaps some of these traumatizing stats of diseases, poverty, teenage pregnancies and unemployment can be breached.

  11. Noxem Noxem 14 November 2012

    As a teacher working in areas where teen pregnancy is a common problem, I don’t feel the buck stops with me, but I do think I have a significant amount of influence to help with the situation, and with that influence comes the responsibility to use it.

    A small anecdote that I think illustrates the difference in responsibilities between parents and teachers when it comes to the sex education of children: one of my 15 year old students came to me after school and said “Miss, can we talk?”. I love my students and feel quite touched when they feel that they can approach me like this, so naturally I said “of course”. She then went on, a little tearily, to explain that she’d slept with a boy (not for the first time) and was worried she’d picked up something (an STD) from him. She’d also then slept with someone else and was worried she’d passed it on.

    What I think of this behaviour personally is not the point. Do I feel I raised her to engage in risky sexual activity? Nope. I’m not her mother. BUT she felt she could tell me things she couldn’t tell her mother. I arranged for her to see a doctor discreetly, and talked her into telling the boys in question so they could too. The point is: I was the alternative, the trusted adult to help sort out trouble. No one is better positioned to do this than teachers. We’re often the second most permanent adult in our kids lives, if not the first. To abscond such roles in our kids lives as “not our responsibility” is to…

  12. african lover african lover 14 November 2012

    Schools cant do everythg. There is a world outside and kids live in it (as we do). This world promotes sex as the in-thing and also one way to riches, besides the obvious fact that it can seem to help out of poverty.
    When will magazine cover stories on, say, the lady man-eater turned writer (!) be proscribed as dangerous for the youth? And when will a redistributive system be put in place that ensures everyone has food , shelter and that put an end to display of conspicuous consumption?
    The dominance of the market ideology is killing us

  13. Rich Brauer Rich Brauer 15 November 2012

    @Noxem: Thanks for that story.

    And thanks for doing your best to help.

    And thanks for teaching!

    And, from what it sounds like, thanks in particular for doing it to the best of your ability!

    You and other caring, dedicated teachers are the ones building a nation.

  14. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 17 November 2012


    Thank you. People seem to think that all children have a perfect home and the model parents. It is teachers like you who help to turn things around. All the best and keep up the good work.

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