Pregnancy unWelkom

A 16-year-old grade nine pupil suspended from Welkom High School because she was pregnant was reinstated this week after the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) stepped in.

The grandmother of the girl laid a complaint about the school’s controversial pregnancy policy in September.

The HRC found it to be a violation of a number of rights, including those to dignity, privacy and education.

The school’s “management of learner pregnancy” policy, of which the Mail & Guardian has a copy, advocates that pupils “exercise full responsibility for parenting, and that a period of up to two years may be necessary for this purpose”.

It adds: “If the pregnant learner can prove that the father of the unborn baby also attends Welkom High School, he too will be given a leave of absence.”

The school has argued that the policy is in line with guidelines of the national education department.

However, the department’s 2007 pregnancy ruling has since been retracted.

A circular released this year reaffirms that pupils cannot be expelled because of pregnancy and that after giving birth they should be encouraged to return to school.

The HRC plans to take the matter to the Equality Court.

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