During the pandemic, 60% of children born in Gauteng were to teen mothers. Statistics show that between April 2020 and March 2021, 23,000 girls in Gauteng under the age of 18 became teenage mothers.
The reality is that these girls often are forced to drop out of school, and this perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
Sentle Windvoel and Bonisile Nyathela, grade 7 students from The Love Trust’s Nokuphila Primary School, share some critical advice for young girls, who like them, face high school, a new chapter in their schooling career.
After graduating from Nokuphila Primary School at the end of this year, the next step in their lives is a bit scary as it comes with a lot of unknowns, hidden challenges and temptations.
Both girls agree that having a good education is the best way to shape a career and achieve a bright future.
In order to navigate the new journey Sentle plans to observe and keep a diary to reflect back on all the challenges she’s overcome and to keep her motivated through the coming obstacles.
Fortunately, during this time of transition from primary school to high school, Sentle and Bonisile have each other for support, an important relationship to hold on to.
When asked what their main three goals were going into high school Bonisile and Sentle said that they want to firstly improve their grades and focus on their academics.
Secondly they want to connect with their peers and learn about each other’s cultures and beliefs. And thirdly, they want to empower other girls through sharing their knowledge and experiences.
Both of these young women believe that through education, girls gain a greater world view and understanding of not just themselves (such as what they want to achieve in life) but the world around them.
It boosts their confidence and through empowerment they can achieve change because they’ll have more and better choices and as well as better discretion when those decisions are made.
This is extremely important as Bonisile points out, girls are often the victims and targets of gender-based violence, body shaming, and bullying.
This breaks down a person’s self-esteem, something that is absolutely crippling to the spirit and psyche. Through education and empowerment, girls regain their confidence, rediscover their self-worth and know that they are valued and loved.
The advice they shared for other teenage girls preparing for high school, “I would advise them to focus on their schoolwork, to listen to teachers and parents, and to focus on their goals and dreams,” Sentle recommended. Bonisile added to this, “Always aim to have higher marks and stay on the right track. You also need to try and communicate with other learners and build bonds with them. Believe in yourself and hold on to hope.”
They also had words of advice for all the girls in South Africa, in light of International Day of the Girl Child that took place on the 11th of October: Sentle believes “that they should know their self-worth and not let anyone underestimate them. It is important that they don’t make unwise decisions that will impact their lives forever, like falling pregnant at a young age. I also advise them to think out of the box, dream bigger, and to follow those dreams.”
Bonisile’s advice is for girls to “stay in school so that they can finish their education and work towards building a career rather than becoming a teenage pregnancy statistic.
By having a child when they themselves are still a child means that they can’t support their baby because they are still living under their parents’ roof.” Teenage pregnancies are rife at the moment and Bonisile warns girls against the honeyed words of boys. “Girls must learn to love themselves and keep their bodies to themselves.”