​Pregnancy’s not the end of schoolgirls’ dreams

Nicole van Nieuwenhuizen with her baby girl Miane at the Hospital School in Pretoria in 2015. (Raymond Preston, Gallo)

Nicole van Nieuwenhuizen with her baby girl Miane at the Hospital School in Pretoria in 2015. (Raymond Preston, Gallo)

When Nicole van Nieuwenhuizen became pregnant at the age of 16, she vowed not to become another high school dropout.

Instead, the teenager from Pretoria doggedly pursued her dream of becoming a teacher and providing a loving, caring and nurturing home for her daughter, Miane, who is now two and a half years old.

Van Nieuwenhuizen (19) finished matric and is now pursuing a teaching degree at the Akademie Reformatoriese Opleiding en Studies private higher education college in Pretoria. She is also working as a trainee teacher at Laërskool Simon Bekker.

Van Nieuwenhuizen’s story is not the norm. Thousands of her pregnant peers were unable to come back from it.

Only a third of all pregnant schoolgirls stay in school during their pregnancy and return following childbirth, according to the department of basic education. It said that becoming pregnant was the most frequent reason cited by schoolgirls for dropping out of school.

Afraid of being shunned and ostracised at her former school, Hoërskool Wonderboom, Van Nieuwenhuizen enrolled in April 2014 at Hospital School Pretoria, the only school in the country catering exclusively for expectant mothers.

She gave birth on August 15 2014, while in grade 11, and resumed her studies three weeks later. She completed matric in 2015, bagging distinctions in life orientation and tourism studies.

Her initial reaction on finding out she was pregnant “was shocked and surprised; I didn’t know what to do. I decided I can’t get an abortion because it was wrong, it was murder.”

Van Nieuwenhuizen and her boyfriend, who was a 21-year-old karate instructor at the time she fell pregnant, broke up two weeks after the baby was born.

After numerous court battles over maintenance payments, he agreed from December last year to pay R1 700 a month towards the child’s upkeep.

She said she left Hoërskool Wonderboom because she did not want her friends to get a bad name from associating with her. “They were earmarked for leadership positions and I didn’t want their lives to be ruined just because I was pregnant.

“After falling pregnant, I could not say it wasn’t my fault; it was both our faults. I realised that if I make a mistake, I must take responsibility for it and that’s what I did. I took the responsibility to raise my child.

“I believe God gave me a calling in life. I also felt, how am I going to support my child one day if I don’t study or work? Everything I do now is not only for me but for her as well, so I can give her a brighter future. I couldn’t be selfish and stop school. I had to work hard for both of us.”

Her message to other girls who become pregnant is that “it’s not the end of the world. You must still follow your dreams because it’s not only your life anymore, it’s both of your lives on the line. You have to have goals for yourself.”

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