Chapter 14



14.10.1Legislative and Policy Framework


  • The South African Constitution Act 108 of 1996 [SAC]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]



  • National Policy on HIV/AIDS for Learners and Educators, Government Gazette No. 20372 of 10 August 1999 [NP 20372/1999]
  • Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools, Government Gazette No. 45580 of 3 December 2021 [NP 704/2021]



  • Teenage pregnancy in South Africa: With a specific focus on school going learners, National Department of Education (2009), commissioned by Unicef [TEENAGE PREGNANCY]
  • Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy, National Department of Education (2007) [PREGNANCY MANAGEMENT]

14.10.2Framework for the development of school policy on learner pregnancies

  1. Legislative Principles
    • The Constitution states that “everyone has the right to basic education” Section 29(1). Section 9 (3), the equality clause, reads “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, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”
      Section 12 (2) states that “everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction; to security in and control over their body and not to be subjected to medical and scientific experiments without their informed consent.”
      Section 29 (1) states that “everyone has the right to basic education, including adult basic education, and to further education, which the state through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.”  The right to basic education does not exclude pregnant learners.
    • In order to comply with the Constitution of South Africa in terms of the right of everyone to basic education, the South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996 stipulates that it is compulsory for every learner under the age of fifteen to attend school. If a learner fails to attend school, the Head of Department may investigate the circumstances of the learner’s absence from school and take appropriate measures to remedy the situation according to Section 3 (1) and 3 (5)(b). A pregnant learner may absent herself from school and she may eventually “drop-out” of school. This has severe implications not only for the learner but also for the country as a whole. Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that this does not happen. The South African Schools Act, 1996 stipulates that a public school must admit learners and serve their educational requirements without unfairly discriminating in any way. In terms of this Act, not admitting a pregnant learner or expelling a pregnant learner is unfair discrimination and unconstitutional.
    • National Policy on HIV/AIDS for Learners and Educators (Government Gazette No. 20372 of August 1999) which states that “…there are high levels of sexually active persons within the learner population group in schools. This increases the risk of HIV transmission in schools and institutions for further education and training considerably.  Besides sexuality education, morality and life skills education being provided by educators, parents and guardians should be encouraged to provide their children with healthy morals, sexuality education, and guidance regarding sexual abstinence until marriage, and faithfulness to their partners”.
  2. Department of Education Policies and Principles
    • The Department of Education strongly advocates abstinence from sexual activity among learners. Programmes emphasising abstinence, targeting both boys and girls, should be in place in all public schools.
    • In accordance with the Constitution, the South African Schools Act, and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (No 4 of 2000), school children who are pregnant shall not be unfairly discriminated against.
    • Accordingly, in July 2000, the Council of Education Ministers issued a statement indicating that pregnant learners may not be expelled from schools.
  3. The Prevention of Learner Pregnancy
    • The National Department of Education strives to ensure that learners, both boys and girls, are educated about the likely outcomes of engaging in sexual activity, and to assist young people to make choices that protect their health and support their access to educational opportunities. Schools should provide programmes to ensure that all, whatever their situation, receive information and guidance to:
      • Encourage them to attend school every day;
      • Stay on in school;
      • Practise healthy lifestyles, and
      • Make appropriate and informed decisions about activities that will impact on their future health and educational prospects.
    • Prevention programmes should be offered in collaboration with NGOs and other agencies, and should provide information and education that builds upon the learner’s own knowledge, skills values and attitudes. As a targeted prevention measure, schools should provide special guidance and support to vulnerable learners, who are most at risk.
    • The National Curriculum Statement provides for comprehensive Life Skills programmes in the Learning Area Life Orientation, which is compulsory from Grade R to 12. Life Skills Education is a programme that deals with topics that effect each and every learner and educator.  Life Skills programmes include the following topics:
      • Human sexuality;
      • Developing and maintaining self-esteem;
      • Interpersonal and decision-making skills, including communication skills, negotiating abstinence, assertiveness, and dealing with peer pressure;
      • Teenage pregnancy, including contributory factors, consequences, and prevention;
      • Sexually transmitted diseases; and
      • Sexual abuse, including the “touch continuum”, gender-based violence, incest and rape.
    • While some of these topics may be difficult to teach because of the sensitive nature of the issues addressed, it is important that suitable educators are prepared to do so and are equipped to deal with any issues which affect learners. Peer education as an approach must be emphasised and incorporated in any intervention programme, due to its proven ability as a method to tackle such issues I an open manner, and to change both attitudes and behaviour.  Importantly also, successes must be identified and celebrated in order to reinforce positive behaviour changes among learners.
    • Prevention programmes should also involve parents and guardians through:
      • Their involvement in the governance of the school, and in the development of the school’s Code of Conduct, with specific strategies to eliminate learner pregnancy;
      • Providing information and support through school newsletters, circulars and meetings;
      • Workshops on pertinent issues (effective parenting, values in education, identifying substance abuse, preventing gender-based violence, as well as information on HIV and AIDS);
      • Creating links between the school and community it serves, and supporting community activities;
      • Developing and sharing a common vision regarding the well-being of the community of the community’s children; and
      • Supporting healthy lifestyles through positive role modelling, encouraging learners to participate in sporting and cultural activities, and advocacy and awareness on the positive consequences of a healthy lifestyle.
  4. The Management of Unplanned Pregnancies at School
    • In cases where prevention measures fail and learners do fall pregnant, the education system is obliged to manage the situation by balancing the best interests of the individual against those of other learners, educators, the school and its community. The aim of this management plan is therefore to help and support the learner who is pregnant, to guide the father of the child, if he is also a learner, regarding his responsibilities, as well as to assist other learners, staff members and parents who are affected by the pregnancy.
    • In the first instance, every case must be dealt with confidentially. Parents or guardians should only be informed and involved after consultation with the learner involved, although confidentiality is not an option when the learner or others are at risk.
    • An inclusive approach to education outlines our commitment to the provision of educational opportunities for learners who experience or have experienced barriers to learning, or who are at risk because of the inability of the education and training system to accommodate their special learning needs.
    • The guiding principle of these management interventions must therefore be an appropriate response in order to safeguard the educational interests of the learner. Each situation should be assessed and evaluated on a regular basis.
    • In the event of a learner becoming pregnant, the following procedures are recommended, with consequent roles and responsibilities for learners, educators, schools and provincial Departments of Education.


  • A learner who is pregnant, or has reason to believe she may be pregnant, should immediately inform someone in the school, preferably a senior educator designated by the principal. The designated educator or educators should take responsibility for the implementation and management of these measures, on behalf of the school.  A learner who is aware that another learner is pregnant must also immediately inform the school.
  • Wherever possible, and as soon as possible, the learner should be referred by the school to a health clinic or centre, and provide to the school, on a regular basis, a record of attendance. Health professionals should provide advice to the learner regarding termination of pregnancy options, and any other necessary information.
  • Learners must be sensitised that there are no medical staff to handle the delivery of babies at school, and the potential health risks and trauma to the mother, new-born child and the rest of the school community arising from a hidden pregnancy, or if the child is delivered at the school. The learner (and the father, if a learner) may therefore request, or be required to take a leave of absence from the school, including sufficient time to address both pre- and post-natal health concerns, as well as the initial caring for the child.  No pre-determined period is specified for this purpose, since it will depend entirely on the circumstances of each case.  However it is the view of the Department of Education that learners as parents should exercise full responsibility for parenting, and that a period of absence of up to two years may be necessary for this purpose.  No learner should be re-admitted in the same year that they left school due to a pregnancy.
  • Before returning to school, the learner must produce a medical report declaring that she is fit to resume classes. The learner must also be made aware that, after childbirth, the rights of the newly born baby must be protected, and she should be able to demonstrate to the school that proper arrangements have been made for the care and safety of the child.
  • A school should avoid any action that may constitute unfair discrimination against a pregnant learner. However the pregnant learner should also understand that some members of the school community might not readily accept and be supportive of their situation because of the value systems to which they subscribe.

Parents and guardians

  • Parents and guardians may not be absolved from their responsibilities regarding their pregnant child, and have to take the lead in working with the school to support and monitor their child’s health and progress. Parents and guardians should therefore ensure that the school is timeously informed about the condition of their child, ensure that she attends a health clinic, and that reports are communicated to the school.
  • Parents or guardians should take steps to ensure that as far as is possible their child receives her class tasks and assignments during any period of absence from the school, and that all completed tasks and assignments are returned to the school for assessment.


  • Schools should strongly encourage learners to continue with their education prior to and after the delivery of the baby. Educators should therefore continue offering educational support to the learner, within reasonable limits, and in whatever ways possible given the particular context.
  • In addition, schools should strive to ensure the existence of a climate of understanding and respect in regard to unplanned pregnancies, and should put in place appropriate mechanisms to deal with complaints of unfair discrimination, hate speech or harassment that may arise. These may include:
    • Name-calling of a sexual nature, or jokes demeaning the dignity of a person, self-image and concept;
    • Written or graphic discrimination in the form of notes or suggestive material relating to the pregnant learner; and
    • Breaking confidentiality in a condemning or judgemental manner.
  • Where possible, learners, after giving birth, should be afforded with advice and counselling on motherhood and child rearing. The Life Orientation educator, counsellor, or psychological services staff member if available, or any other suitable person, should offer the mother, and the father, if also a learner, counselling on their roles and responsibilities as parents.  Schools should inform the Department of Social Development about pregnant learners, and where applicable, assist in registering these learners for child grants.  They may also refer the learners to relevant support services, such as social workers or NGO’s operating in the community.
  • Schools should ensure that a record of learner pregnancies is maintained, and that reports are submitted to the relevant authorities in the provincial Department of Education. Schools should also ensure that if informed of alleged cases of rape (including statutory rape), as defined in the The Sexual Offences Act 32 of 2007 [SOA], they report the case to the police.

14.10.3Guidelines for the development of effective curriculum based programmes

In reviewing 19 of the most effective curricula for sex-based education, Kirby (2007) identified 17 characteristics that were common to these programmes.  These characteristics, presented in the Table 1 below, can be clustered into three categories (Table 2 below): the process of developing the curriculum, the content of the curriculum and the process of the implementation.

Table 1:  Sources of information related to HIV and AIDS for young people in SA 

National multimedia campaigns
Soul City
Soul Buddyz
National multi-media HIV and AIDS campaigns and programmes including communication via mass media (television, radio, print, outdoor media) and including interactive participation
Television series
Tsha Tsha
Beat It
National HIV and AIDS-focused television series broadcast nationally on prime time
Non-campaign related mass media News features, documentaries, talk shows, statistics etc. with HIV and AIDS content broadcast and published nationally and internationally
School-based life-skills National life-skills education programmes including HIV and AIDS interactive participation
Provincial campaigns
Local campaigns
Health systems, clinics, hospitals
Local organizations focused on HIV
Faith-based organisations
HIV and AIDS communication via mass media and including international participation
Direct experience of HIV and AIDS  This includes personally knowing people who are positive, knowing those who have died; interaction with friends and relatives about HIV and AIDS; being orphaned as a result of AIDS etc.

Table 2: Characteristics of effective curriculum-based programmes 


Involve multiple people with expertise in theory, research, and STI/HIV education to develop the curriculum Focus on clear health goals, e.g. prevention of STI/HIV/pregnancy or all three Secure support from the appropriate authorities, such as departments of health, school districts or community organisations
Assess the relevant needs and assets of the target group Focus specifically on behaviour leading to goals e.g., using condoms, give clear messages about behaviour, address the situations that lead to them, and how to avoid STIs, HIV and pregnancy Select educators with the desired characteristics (where possible), train them, and provide monitoring, supervision and support
Use a logical model (health and psychosocial theory) to specify health goals, behaviours that affect goals, risk and protective factors affecting behaviour and activities to change risk and protective factors Address sexual risk and protective factors that affect sexual behaviour (e.g. knowledge, perceived risk, value, attitudes, norms and self-efficacy) and change them If required, implement activities to recruit and keep adolescents to overcome barriers to participation (e.g., publicise the programme, offer food or obtain parental consent)
Design activities consistent with community values and available resources, (e.g. staff time, skills, space and supplies Create a safe space for young people to participate Implement virtually all activities with reasonable fidelity
Pilot-test the programme Include multiple activities to change risk and protective factors
Use instructionally-sound teaching methods that actively involve participants, help them personalise information and are designed to change risk and protective factors
Use activities, teaching methods, and behavioural messages appropriate to the adolescents’ culture, developmental age, and sexual experience
Cover topics in a logical sequence

Also see Chapter 1.3 Developing of Policies


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