SAHRC's Intervention resulted in a suspended pregnant learner being reinstated by her school
Friday, 05 November 2010
The South African Human Rights Commission wishes to announce that as a result of its intervention, a grade nine learner at Welkom High School who was suspended from school on Wednesday,15 September 2010 after she fell pregnant, has been reinstated is now back in class with effect from Monday, 01 November 2010.
Subsequent to its receipt of a complaint against the school, the Commission initiated an investigation which revealed that the action of the school violated the following provisions which seek to protect the learner’s ability to enjoy her right of access to education:
the Free State Provincial Department of Education circular number MG 18 of 2010 which sought to reiterate its 2007 Guidelines - Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in School. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that learners are not expelled from school due to pregnancy;
Section 9 (3) of the Constitution which provides that the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation. The school being an organ of state can therefore not discriminate;
•Section 9(1) of the South African Schools Act, which provides that there are only two ways in which a learner can be involuntarily excluded from attending classes, namely: suspension and exclusion after being found guilty of a misconduct as stipulated in the Code of Conduct.
In its response the school argued that by suspending the learner it was implementing its Code of Conduct which amongst others, provides that in the year that learner’s child is born, the learner may not return to school and this was applicable to all learners regardless of the grade of the learner. For instance, this means that matriculants will not enjoy preferential treatment simply because it is their final year of school.
In addition, the age of the learner is also irrelevant, whether the learner will be too old to attend school after giving birth is irrelevant because recommendations can be made for adult education.
The Commission is investigating the impact of this policy on other learners of Welkom High School who might have been affected by the policy but did not seek the intervention of the Commission.
While the Commission understands the formidable challenges that schools have to deal with to accommodate pregnant learners, it nonetheless wishes to urge them to be sensitive when dealing with such cases.
The Commission wants to reassure the public that it does not condone leaner pregnancy as it views it as an impediment to effective learning and preparation for a healthy adulthood, and will therefore continue to work with stakeholders to eradicate the Socio-Economic challenges that cause teenage pregnancy.
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