Wits offers on-campus assistance to students who are sexually active.

Wits University offers support at various stages of a student’s pregnancy which includes counselling, referrals to clinics, and information on abortion services.

Thembinkosi Ngwenya from the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) says, “We test students to see if they are pregnant and if they are, we have protocol for how to deal with the situation at hand.”

Sister Maggie, head nurse at WHC, and head of the department, said that the centre deals with many pregnant students on campus.  “We consult with them and then refer them to antenatal care units,” she said.

Pregnant students who live in residences are asked to leave their accommodation at 32 weeks as “they need to go home so they can be monitored by [a parent or guardian] before they give birth”, said Moloi.

In instances where students request abortions, Moloi said the WHC refers the cases to outside clinics. “We deal a lot with abortions. We provide counselling but do not do the procedure ourselves. We refer the students to Hillbrow or any other clinic of their choice,” she said.

She added that most clinics are free of charge but abortions are charged for at Marie Stopes Pregnancy Termination Clinic, which offers legal abortions to patients up to 20 weeks.  “Students usually go to Marie Stopes as they are open on Saturdays,” she said.

*Sarah Jackson, a Wits graduate, was pregnant twice during her studies at Wits. She was a second-year BSc student when she fell pregnant for the first time and Jackson said she did not know where to request special parking and was too embarrassed to ask.

Jackson explained to the Wits Vuvuzela that during her second-year she was required to be in a lab three times a week and, being pregnant, she was not allowed in. She said, “I approached the head of school who initially told me to quit, which I never.”

Jackson completed her labs the following year after giving birth. She said, “I understand that Wits has to take precautions but, in third-year [after giving birth], my lecturer was pregnant and would be in the lab all day showing me that it can be done.”

Graphic: Mary Sayegh

Her second pregnancy was a different experience. She was a postgraduate student at Wits Business School (WBS) and said that during her studies she “had a more pleasant experience and found [Wits Business School] to be very understanding”.

Although both experiences were different, Jackson said, “I feel like in general pregnant ladies are not supported at Wits.”

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Shameen Naidu, Educational Psychologist at the Wits Counselling, Careers and Development Unit (CCDU), about student pregnancy at Wits. She said, “We deal with a limited number of students coming in with pregnancy concerns. This is managed through the therapy process according to the individual students’ needs.”

Naidu said, “The number of pregnant students accessing our services does not warrant an exclusive programme” adding that CCDU runs programmes offering guidance for students who are sexually active.

Moloi said that the WHC also offers consultations to students about their sexual activity and contraception. “We provide free condoms and the pill as well as an injection, implants and IUDs.”

All these forms of contraceptives and consultations at the WHC are offered free of charge, according to Moloi. For certain contraceptives, such as the mirena, the clinic does not run the procedure but refers the student to an appropriate clinic.

*Not her real name.