For the past few days, newspapers have been abuzz with reports of 7000 girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy. With these high figures, it also means that the number of fatherless children is increasing. It also shows that the methods currently used to rectify the problem by both parents and educators are not working. This article will briefly look at how our ancestors educated and treated sexual practices. It will also look at the causes of teenage pregnancies at the moment and propose some solutions. The absence of a father at home has a negative impact on most children be they male or female. Girl children without fathers usually end up being a problem themselves or being in problematic relationships because they are searching for a father figure in their lives. They also do not have a true example of what a father or husband is supposed to be. Boys are also in the same predicament. By not knowing what true masculinity is, they get themselves involved in fights, gangs and they abuse women because they think that is how a man is supposed to behave. These boys end up doing drugs, in prison or in the grave just because of an absent father. According to historical studies, a nuclear family of a mother, father and children in an Africa society was important and children were meant to be brought up in such families. In instances of premarital pregnancies both parties (boy and girl) took responsibility for their actions and both families would negotiate marriage before the child was born ((Burn, 1996:81) and (Pelius and Glaser, 2002: 31)) History also makes it clear that sexual education and sexual practices without penetration were not restricted. Young people were allowed to express themselves sexually and were free to ask their parents about it. It was never seen as taboo but a part of nature. The only thing that was forbidden was sexual penetration. Young girls were checked by older women to see if they were still intact (Burn, 1996: 80-81). In the Nguni culture when a boy was accepted to become a man he was allowed to ask amaqhikazi (older girls who had already had sweethearts) for permission to ukuhlobonga/ukusoma (have external intercourse) with them. This process was called ukucela intombi and gifts would be exchanged in the process. All these traditions and cultural practices changed when Christianity and industrialisation came to Southern Africa. Christianity was obsessed with two things when they came to Africa, dressing and sexual activity. Before Christianity sex was spoken about casually as there was nothing wrong with it. However, things changed especially in mission schools where children were discouraged to follow traditional practices and they were taught that sex before marriage was taboo. Even talking about it was not encouraged. Industrialisation saw rural to urban migration with people dumping their cultural teachings as soon as they become urbanites. In this way, cultural teachings were lost. What causes teenage pregnancies today? 1. Poverty is causing young girls to seek money from blessers or old men. These old men then demand sex, most times without protection, in exchange for the money and other material things.
2. There is not enough education about sexual intercourse. It is still treated as a taboo topic by churches and schools so they hide crucial and vital information.
3. Limited access to contraceptives due to mostly religiously influenced education. Teens are shunned or treated in dehumanizing ways by health care personnel.
4. Peer pressure, if the friend is doing it they would want to do it also.
5. Vuzu parties, where teenagers engage in bizarre sexual activities.
Solutions Teenagers must be taught the origin of sex, its purpose, how it can be practised safely, the effects of unprotected sex, contraceptive use and how to deal with peer pressure.
Conversations about sex must be more open, freer and more engaging. Teenagers must not feel like they are in a lecture. Instead, it must be a platform where teens are free to discuss how their bodies are changing and how they should react to that change and also how they should react to the opposite sex. This must involve both parents and educators because at the moment teenagers usually get their information from domestic workers, friends and the internet who are more likely to give inappropriate advice.
Telling them the truth about how men feel about a woman who sleeps around.
Being told that sex is about them, not the guy, they only should do it when they are ready for the responsibility and consequences both emotionally and physically that come with it.
Burns, C. ‘Sex Lessons from the Past?’, Agenda, No. 29, Women and the Environment. (1996), pp. 79-91.
Delius, P and Glaser, C. (2002) ‘Sexual Socialization in South Africa: A Historical Perspective’, African Studies, 61: 1, 27 — 54