By REGIS CHINGAWO
MORE than 20 000 young primary and secondary school learners fell pregnant between September 2021 and August this year, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) says.
Politicians, church leaders and security forces were identified among the major culprits behind the shocking statistics which involved girls as young as eight years old.
The president of PTUZ, Takavafira Zhou, said yesterday that the teachers’ body had established this from a recent survey carried out in Matabeleland South, Midlands, Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central.
“A survey we did revealed that an average 20 000 school-going pupils between the ages of eight and 20 years fell pregnant in the period between August 2021 and September 2022.
“The areas of Plumtree, Beitbridge, Mwenezi, Chiredzi, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, Mt Darwin, Gokwe North and Mberengwa are the most affected.
“Covid-19, poverty, exorbitant school fees, drug abuse and increased indiscipline in schools are some of the major factors contributing to high prevalence of pregnancies in schools,” Zhou said.
The PTUZ added that its findings had revealed that politicians and church leaders contributed a lot to the spike in pregnancies.
“The chief culprits behind the increased pregnancies are politicians, male personnel in some churches, security forces and fellow school boys.
“The research also revealed increases of rape cases of girls mostly under the influence of alcohol,” the union said, adding that there was also rampant indiscipline in schools.
“There is a quantum leap of alcohol abuse in schools, threatening the moral fibre of pupils in Zimbabwean schools.
“The issue of counselling and discipline needs to be revisited as a matter of urgency,” it also said.
However, Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said the ministry’s own statistics showed that nearly 5 000 pupils had fallen pregnant in 2021.
“A total of 4 676 girl students got pregnant in 2021. Of course, we collect statistics on a case by case basis and we will report next year on the figures of 2022.
“We don’t speculate or thumb suck figures. Our survey revealed that 4 676 girl children got pregnant in 2021,” Ndoro said.
He also mentioned the Covid-19 pandemic as a major contributory factor for the spike in teen pregnancies — adding that the ministry was taking measures to halt the scourge.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer, Sifiso Ndlovu, also attributed the rise in child pregnancies to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“We can’t give the figures as that was not under our programme, but obviously the rise in pregnancies was caused by Covid-19-induced lockdowns,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio on Health and Child Care, Ruth Labode, has urged Parliament to take stern action against the scourge.
“We sit here and pretend it is something that will disappear. What I am saying is that we have a serious problem,” she told MPs earlier this week.
In a related development, the Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni warned paedophiles that the law would take its course against perpetrators.- Daily News