A case study of the educational experiences of four teenage mothers in two high schools in the Buffalo City Metropole

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University of Fort Hare


Teenage pregnancy is a worldwide phenomenon. World Health Organisation (2009) reports that teenage mothers between the ages of 15-19 years account for 11% of births recorded worldwide. In South Africa it has been estimated that teenagers aged 17-19 account for 93% of all teenage pregnancies. A large proportion of these adolescents return to school after giving birth. Research has shown that there is a great deal of controversy about not only pre-marital sex, but also concerning whether teenage mothers should be allowed back in school at all. The aim of this study was to gain some insights into the lived experiences of teenage mothers in schools with particular reference to how they cope with school work and the responsibilities of motherhood. A case study of four teenage mothers who returned to school after giving birth was carried out. In-depth phenomenological interviewing designed to elicit the voices of the selected adolescents was done. There were five main findings. First, all four teenagers were minors, under the age of 18 when they gave birth. Two of them were even under the statutory age of consent. Second, upon return to school, teenage mothers experienced stigmatisation from peers and teachers and this forced them to continually negotiate their dual identities as mothers and learners. Third, teenage mothers experienced psychological emotions of stress; low self-esteem; shame and depression. Fourth, they also had sociological experiences in the form of material, financial and social support from family and friends. In some cases they experienced rejection from peers and abandonment by boyfriends who had made them pregnant. Some educators discriminated against and ridiculed teenage mothers. Fifth, teenage mothers reorganised their lives after childbirth and established routines that enabled them to cope with the demands of school work and the responsibilities of motherhood. The study concludes that, although viewed with scepticism by sections of the community and some educators, and given that some pregnancies are a result of abuse and unequal power relations between men and women in society, the policy of allowing teenage mothers back to school after giving birth gives them another chance to re-focus their lives. It is recommended that the voices of teenage mothers who return to school after childbirth should be taken into account to inform any planning for future policies on teenage pregnancy by schools and the state. It is further recommended that all educators should also be trained to be able to assist the teenage mothers instead of alienating them. There should also be counselling services available for the teenage mothers to enable them to deal with psychological and sociological problems they might encounter. For further research, students from different backgrounds should be the target of similar research. Another area of research should focus on academic performance of teenage mothers who return to school after giving birth. Lastly, there should be research that seeks to link what is taught in the Life Orientation curriculum and voices of teenage mothers.



Teenage girls -- Sexual behavior -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Teenagers -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Teenage mothers -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape -- Case studies, Teachers -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape -- Attitudes