IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | NAMIBIA: Growing controversy over teen pregnancy | Children | Focus
Wednesday 22 February 2006
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
·South Africa
West Africa
RSS - News Briefs


PlusNews E-mail Subscription

NAMIBIA: Growing controversy over teen pregnancy

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

WINDHOEK, 20 October (PLUSNEWS) - Ndjianje Tjiraure, 16, always excelled as a student at Ashipena High School in Katutura, Namibia's oldest black suburb.

But her hopes of becoming an engineer were dashed when she fell pregnant and gave birth to a boy last November, thanks to an education policy that requires teenage mothers to take at least a year off school to care for their babies.

"The authorities learnt of my pregnancy in the third month and expelled me," Tjiraure, who was in Grade 9 at the time of her pregnancy, told IRIN. "I have been told that I can only be admitted in school next year."

Statistics on young mothers like Tjiraure are not available, but she is not the only casualty of the policy Namibia adopted in October 1999.

Earlier this year the High Court dismissed an urgent application by Seuaa Karuaihe-Samupofu, whose 18-year-old daughter, Utjiua Karuaihe, had been denied re-admission to Windhoek High School because she had given birth to a baby in December 2004.

Karuaihe-Samupofu argued that denying her daughter access to school was illegal, as it undermined Utjiua's constitutional right to education.

The government countered that the policy should be seen as an attempt to balance Utjiua's right to education with the fundamental rights of her child, as enunciated in Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

According to this clause, "Children shall have the right from birth to a name; the right to acquire a nationality; and, subject to legislation enacted in the best interests of children, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by their parents".

"The stipulations of the policy, particularly the provision that school girls who fall pregnant be allowed to return to normal schooling after spending at least a year with the their children, should be appreciated in that context and against that background," the Ministry of Basic Education said in a recent statement.

The government has pointed out that the policy was introduced after "broad and successful consultations", and that the onus was on schools to implement it in a "fair, consistent and humane manner".

Namibia's birth rate is one of the highest in the world, and the government has been trying to lower it by means of public campaigns and expanded family planning services. Abortion is illegal, except in cases of incest and rape, and for reasons of health either of the mother or the baby.

According to UNAIDS, 70 percent of the country's nearly two million people are under 30 years of age, with 33 percent between 15 and 30 years old, and about one in every five pregnancies occurring in the 13-to-19 age group.

Although overall school enrolment is higher among girls (75 percent) compared to boys (72 percent), more boys (56.2 percent) than girls (42 percent) pass from junior to senior secondary school - most girls drop out before Grade 10 due to pregnancy.

HIV prevalence among people aged 15 to 24 is about 20 percent for females, whereas the estimate for males in the same age group is about 10 percent.

The policy regarding pregnant students has been criticised for being discriminatory, because the schoolboys - or teachers - who impregnate the girls seldom face any consequences, and very few schools take action against them.

"Namibia is living in the past," said gender activist Eva Maria Bernhard. "Why does a child need only a mother's love and not the father's love ... [shouldn't] both parents of the child stay home?"

Bernhard highlighted research conducted on teenage pregnancy in central and southern Namibia. "My findings reveal that most schoolgirls who become pregnant resort to illegal (often unsafe) abortions to avoid expulsion from school," she noted.

"Most girls who drop out of school as a result of pregnancy rarely return to complete their education, and their opportunities for socioeconomic advancement in later life are considerably reduced."

Bernhard said more girls were also likely to drop out of school due to other factors, such as poverty, alcohol abuse in the family, a broken home, and losing a breadwinner to HIV/AIDS.

Last week the Department of Sociology at the University of Namibia engaged two youth groups on the issue of teenage pregnancy. While most girls said they pitied their peers who fell pregnant, the boys argued that schools were for children and a girl who fell pregnant should automatically be considered an adult.


Recent NAMIBIA Reports
Inheritance rights still a thorny issue,  14/Feb/06
Poor access to treatment hampers fight against TB,  25/Jan/06
Underage sex-workers have few other options to survive,  24/Oct/05
HIV/AIDS takes sustenance as well as lives,  7/Oct/05
Action plan for local authorities ,  4/Oct/05
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

[Back] [Home Page]

Click here to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about PlusNews Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to Webmaster

Copyright © IRIN 2006
The material contained on comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
All PlusNews material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.