The Limpopo Health Department has revealed that 36 learners aged between 10 and 19 at one of the secondary schools in the Mulenzhe area, outside Thohoyandou, are pregnant.

The department also says 31 other learners aged nine to 19 from both primary and secondary schools have been infected with HIV.

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba held a teenage pregnancy awareness campaign at Dididi in the area.

She has expressed shock at the findings.

Statistics from local clinics in the rural area of Mulenzhe prompted the Limpopo Health Department to act. It has been found that children as young as nine, are sexually active. This has resulted in a high rate of teenage pregnancy and HIV infection.

A lack of recreational facilities and a prevalence of alcohol consumption among teens are contributing factors.

At a local high school, 36 learners are currently pregnant. A Grade 12 learner who has two children, aged three and one warned other learners against falling pregnant.

The 19-year-old says becoming a parent at a young age has affected her schooling.

“I once had to leave school, after my sister, who lived with my child wanted to go to driving school, and it was hard raising my child while attending school.”

The teen mother says she had been educated about contraceptives.

“I had been told about contraceptives at school and at the clinic, but I didn’t listen. With my second child, I was on the injection and later stopped and a few days later I could feel that I was pregnant and when I went to the clinic they confirmed that I was indeed pregnant.”

Another Grade 12 learner, who has a three-month-old son, told her peers of the difficulty of raising a child while still at school.

“It is very difficult because I’m still at school. While I’m studying, the baby cries a lot and even gets sick. I remember yesterday I was called at home that the baby was not doing okay. So, I had to go back and leave class. It is very difficult for me to study because my maternal instinct won’t allow me to leave the baby crying and focus on my studies. So, I have to focus on the baby first, by that time I’m already tired, I can’t study.”

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba says after receiving reports about the situation, she visited the area.

“In this school only, we got reports that 36 learners are pregnant. There were learners between the ages of 9 and 14 13 of them being HIV positive only to find that both parents are HIV negative. So, that tells you that the children from age of nine are involved in issues of sexual activity and those children are both girls an boys and our message would still be abstain, abstain, abstain.”

Ramathuba says the prevalence of new HIV infections among children who are not born with the virus takes the country back in the fight for an HIV free generation.

By Shibu Mamokgere and Pimani Baloyi 

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