University gives birth to new pregnancy policy

WITS students who are pregnant are being requested to leave res by the time they are eight months along, according to several students.

Second-year student Mbali Ngcobo*, who is four months pregnant, said she was told by her res matron that she would have to leave her residence before she gives birth.

“I understand why I must leave, some people are dramatic and if I give birth in res it could be traumatic for some students,” she said.

Ngcobo’s experience is not unique according to several female students who have had friends who also had to leave residence after they had gotten far along in their pregnancies.

While Ngcobo said leaving res will be difficult and may impact her studies, she has made peace with this. She is hoping to give birth during September holidays and then return to Wits to take her exams in October.

GROWING BELLY ISSUES: Wits students are being asked to leave res at 8 months of their pregnancy,in line with a new policy under discussion Photo: Wits Vuvuzela

GROWING BELLY ISSUES: Wits students are being asked to leave res at 8 months of their pregnancy,in line with a new policy under discussion Photo: Wits Vuvuzela

Ngcobo said she has the support of her family. However, they are not from Johannesburg and are unable to give her much practical support. She plans on moving in with a friend when she leaves residence.

Doreen Musemwa, assistant registrar of East campus residences, would not comment on the allegation that pregnant students are told to leave res when their eight months into term. She said a new policy is still under development and is “aimed at protecting the university and the university community, staff and students alike”.

“How the mother copes with all of this will also then impact on her academic career.”

Shameen Naidu of the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) could not confirm how many students at Wits are pregnant. However, she said having a baby while a student could be difficult.

“They may have to leave their infant with a family member, it may be psychologically distressing for both the mother and the baby,” Naidu said.

“How the mother copes with all of this will also then impact on her academic career.”

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to other healthcare professionals on campus who said they don’t believe that the forthcoming policy is meant to be punitive.

Yvonne Matimba, head of Campus Health, said she cannot comment on the pregnancy policy as it is still being discussed. However, she said Campus Health does offer a variety of contraceptive methods for free.

*Names have been changed at the request of the individual

Pregnant but determined to graduate

A few days before the official closing date for 2014 application at Wits, I pass by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC) in Senate House and meet a few keen applicants.

One of those applicants is a young woman dressed in black pair of warm leggings, knee length black boots and a purple fitting T-shirt half covered by her black jacket. At first glance it’s not clear whether the rounded belly of the applicant is a sign of weight she is carrying or a possible pregnancy. Her friend seated next to her quickly responds:-

“That’s the difficult question she will have to answer, “ says Asemahle Fodo.

Mbali Mthembu is pregnant, but relaxed and determined to secure a place to study at Wits next year. “Yes I’m pregnant, but doesn’t mean I can’t study or prepare for next year,” confirms Mthembu.

Both Mthembu and her friend come from Kagiso township, in the West Rand of Johannesburg. She spends R14 for a single trip to Wits to make the application in person.

“We are six at home, I am the second girl and my sister is at the Durban University of Technology,” she says.

Mthembu wasn’t able to pass Grade 12 last year. She is repeating matric at Mandisa Shiceka Secondary School hoping to do better this year. “It’s not this pregnancy that made me not to achieve well in maths and science, my parents were fighting, they separated but then later reconciled. My father relocated to KZN and mother followed him. They both work there. Yes they are living there and I live here with my brothers,” relates Mthembu.

Responding to questions about her pregnancy, Mthembu says: “I know all that stuff, contraceptives, condoms and abstention. I became pregnant well aware of those things, but then I kept myself out of sex until just on silly night”. My boyfriend is here, at Wits doing his third year, he was scared at first but now he is not any more. At the moment I have a guarantee and hope that our relationship will go on”.

“His mother supports me. She will be looking after the baby when I go on with my studies. My focus now is writing my exams in December and I’m confident I will get the marks. With the support from my parents and brothers who also give me more attention than before I will make it.

Mthembu is due to deliver her baby next month. If she passes matric and is admitted to Wits next year, she hopes to undertake a degree in psychology.