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When schoolgirls become mothers: Reflections from a selected group of teenage girls in Durban

D Bhana
SJ Mcambi


Schools are obliged to support young women who become mothers. Drawing from an interview study of young women in a Durban school, this article shows how their experience is situated within discourses of shame and stigma. Such shame works to reduce their agency and increase their vulnerability to drop out of school. Both teachers and peers are complicit in this. The participants argue that schools do not support the management of pregnancy, parenting and learning, with negative effects for learning outcomes. However, schools are not only sites of social reproduction, since the participants point to glimmers of hope as a consequence of care work among friends, some teachers and support groups in the school. The article argues that the experience of pregnancy and parenting is highly gendered, and addressing the challenges requires a commitment to gender equality and justice. Some implications for schools are suggested in the conclusion of the article.

Keywords: Girls, pregnancy, young mothers, schooling, sexual shame, teachers, peers, disruption, care work

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0258-2236