No fewer than 17,260 pregnancies were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal schools in 2010, the provincial education MEC said.
"There is one school in Zululand in which 60 pupils fell pregnant in one year and that is not a development that you would want to associate with a school," said Senzo Mchunu.
He was addressing the media after his department and the police conducted raids in a number of schools in Pietermaritburg looking for drugs and arms.
Knives, cigarettes and dagga were some of the items found during a raid at Copesville Secondary School.
War on drugs
"We are declaring war on drugs, carrying of weapons, pregnancy and any other impediment in the teaching and learning of our children," said Mchunu.
Obonjeni district in the northern part of the province recorded 2029 pregnancies.
Jolwayo High School on the South Coast, according to government reports, recorded 83 pregnancies last year.
Political parties and education stakeholders have expressed shock over the news that there were 17,260 school pregnancies last year.
Democratic Alliance education spokesman Tom Stokes said the figures should worry everyone concerned with the future of the province.
He said a thorough analysis needed to be conducted to determine the reasons behind the frightening numbers.
Carelessness or not
The analysis had to look at whether this was an indication of carelessness on the part of pupils.
"This is absolutely appalling, because it means that the children born by pupils who are themselves children will not get a good start in life, and this breeds further poverty on families, communities and society, this is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken," he said.
Education portfolio committee chairwoman Linda Hlongwa admitted that the numbers were disheartening.
Inkatha Freedom Party MPL and "shadow" education MEC Lindani Mncwango said the figures were an indication that something needed to be done.
"As a person who comes from Zululand, it is very disheartening to hear that one school from this area recorded such a high rate," she said.
KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo recently raised concern at the strain on the public health system in which he fingered pupil pregnancy as one of the reasons behind this pressure.
School Governing Body Association chairman Reginald Chiliza said the figures demanded a gathering of everyone concerned with the future of the country including pupils in a bid to find ways of ending what he labelled as a cancer that was eating at society.
"This paints a very bad picture about the child, her family, the school and the society in general," said Chiliza adding that the matter had been raised at the association's meeting last month.
He also expressed concern at the influence of modern technology including cell phones on the behaviour of teenagers.
(Sapa, March 2011)