Teenage pregnancy and parenting at school in contemporary South African contexts: deconstructing school narratives and understanding policy implementation
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South African national education policy is committed to promoting gender equality at school and to facilitating the successful completion of all young people’s schooling, including those who may become pregnant and parent while at school. However, the experience of being pregnant and parenting while being a learner is shaped by broader social and school-based responses to teenage pregnancy, parenting and female sexuality in general. Drawing on qualitative research with a group of teachers and principals at 11 schools (over 80 interviewees) and 26 learners who are parents at school, in Cape Town and Durban, the article argues that dominant moralistic discourses on adolescence, normative gender roles and female sexuality, perpetuating the representation of teenage pregnancy as social decay and degeneration, underpin negative responses to learners. In addition, the school is constructed as a space where pregnancy and parenting are unintelligible. These discourses are shown to be experienced as exclusionary practices by some learners. The article foregrounds the imperative of addressing the larger ideological terrain that impacts on the successful implementation of the policy, recommending support for teachers in the challenges of providing meaningful guidance, constructive support and appropriate interventions in the nurturance of pregnant and parenting learners.