It’s not easy to be young in SA.
I started the month of June by reading this article about the number of girls falling pregnant in Grade 3. As in, at nine years old. When they are 27, their daughters and sons will be in matric. There is nothing in the article about the fathers of these children, other than to suggest that they are rapists. Sex with someone under the age of 15 is always rape. What about paternal parental responsibilities when the child is conceived with another classmate? How can children of 9 years old raise a child?
These are the young women we want to lead South Africa one day. Many of them are being educated outside of classrooms, because of a lack of teachers, a lack of government commitment and a lack of facilities. This should be of major concern to us.
Sexual violence flourishes in South African schools. This year we have seen the Soweto rape video, and many more instances of abuse against minors. There is no nationalised sex education curriculum, and the provincial ones that I have seen do not have any lessons on sexual violence or rape.
Girls are absent from schools because they are menstruating. President Zuma promised to provide sanitary towels to young girls of school going age. I haven’t heard any more about whether this has been implemented. Girls leave school when they are pregnant – sometimes at the school’s request, sometimes because of peer pressure. There are next to no support structures for mothers in schools.
Girls will leave school, with a matric or not, and will face soaring unemployment rates. Some will live in areas of affluence, others in areas with a lack of service delivery. A lack of education limits the life choices of girls in their adult years.
We need to change this somehow. This month I think we need to start looking critically at our lack of activism as women relating to education. We can no longer afford to remain silent about the risks that girls face going to school, and the more significant risks that they face when they don’t get an education. If girls in South Africa are not educated, we will remain a patriarchal country, and perhaps it will get worse for women.
I’d love to hear your solutions, suggestions and hopes. We need to see our way out of this tunnel. Shine some light for us.