The purpose of this research was to investigate role-players’ views on the Measures for the Prevention and Management of the Learner Pregnancy Policy (hereafter MPMLP) in Public Schools (DoE, 2007) and its implementation in public schools. The study utilised a qualitative research approach because it was aimed at understanding perceptions about the views of role-players on the Learner Pregnancy Policy and its implementation in public schools. The researcher utilised an interpretive case study paradigm, which sought to transform human beings, change normally acceptable tendencies and their environment by being personally involved in the actions that changed their circumstances.
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, document analysis, field notes and tape recordings. The focus was on eight selected high schools: four schools are situated in an urban area and mainly accommodate learners from urban areas; another four are situated in a township, and mostly accommodate learners from disadvantaged families, poorer socio-economic backgrounds and from a location situated in a rural area or village. Purposive sampling was used in this study, in which eight principals, eight teachers, four parents and four learners were interviewed.
Thematic analysis was utilised, in which information gathered from semi-structured interviews, document analysis and field notes were grouped on the basis of the population examined and then compared. Five themes emerged from the analysed data, which are: Knowledge of the Learner Pregnancy Policy (MPMLP); Management of the Learner Pregnancy Policy in public schools; Stakeholders’ involvement, co-operation and participation in the life of a pregnant learner; Challenges relating to the implementation of the Learner Pregnancy Policy (MPMLP in Public Schools; and Recommendations on policy implementation.
The following findings were revealed by this research study. While participants seemed to acknowledge that pregnant learners had a legal right to education in terms of the Constitution of South Africa of 1996, SASA, 84 of 1996 and the MPMLP (DoE, 2007), most of them do not know the pregnancy policy, which could assist them in managing pregnant learners and reducing the high rate of teenage pregnancies in public schools. Lack of knowledge of the MPMLP hinders the implementation of this policy in public schools. The completion of the curriculum and attainment of good school results suffer because instead, school management spend a lot of time addressing non curriculum issues such as learner pregnancy, leave of absence and the intervention of parents and health workers in the school environment.
The Department of Education did not take cognisance of the fact that new teachers are not inducted and workshopped about new policies. The newly appointed principals and HODs are also not taken on board in acquainting them with these new policies and legislations. The study further indicated that some stakeholders do not have an interest to get to know this policy and thus show a lot of ignorance of its content. In turn, this permits the principals and those affected to use their own discretion in resolving issues related to teenage pregnancy at their schools.
It is evident that for the successful implementation of the learner pregnancy policy, the Department of Education must consider going to all villages and townships to make this process more inclusive. Community leaders, counsellors and churches should take the lead to help ensure that everybody contributes to the process of policy formulation and implementation. The department should make this policy available in all official languages as currently it is available only in English. The effective implementation of the learner pregnancy policy should ideally not only reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies, but also improve the academic results of SA’s schools and make all stakeholders active participants. This will reduce many of the current barriers to the attainment of SA’s education goals. However, no policy can achieve such goals in isolation. It will need more involvement by parents and other stakeholders. It will be a major challenge to try and convince teenagers to remain abstinent; thus, the only other option will be to make sure that they use contraceptives at all times.