GOLD panners are wreaking havoc in Ntabazinduna, Umguza District in Matabeleland North, where they have been blamed for impregnating pupils and making them school drop-outs, with one school recording over 30 pregnancies on opening day.
In a no holds barred meeting during a NAC media tour in Ntabazinduna yesterday, gold panners challenged parents to improve on parenting instead of blaming them. The panners argued that they were not raping the girls, but most of them were in relationships known to their parents who accept gifts that teenagers bring home.
Addressing the miners, NAC Umguza district coordinator Mrs Sarah Hove said there is a concern that gold panners were impregnating children of school-going age.
She said teenage pregnancies come with sexually transmitted infections as most girls cannot negotiate for safe sex.
“Teenage pregnancies are very high and it is an issue of concern to the community because the issue of teenage pregnancies comes with sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases and with STI cases there are new HIV cases, especially with adolescent girls and young women. In a meeting which was called by Unicef and was attended by various stakeholders, that issue came up prominently,” said Mrs Hove.
“At one school, last year in September when schools opened, about 30 teenage pregnancies were recorded at Nhlambabaloyi Secondary School. You will find out that there is that problem at Madlelenyoni Secondary School. It is so prevalent that it is of concern to us as NAC.”
She said NAC has a running sister to sister programme which previously has served to educate pupils about sexual health rights.
In response, the gold panners said there is a lot of blame to share as far as teenage pregnancy is concerned.
While they did not deny having sexual relations with teenage girls, they said it was the pupils who were coming to them.
One of the miners, Mr Boardington Maphosa, said pupils were falling into pregnancy traps because of money.
“Even when these children are getting pregnant, they are not being sexually violated. They are the ones that come here because they will be wanting goodies such as biscuits and jiggies among other things. When they come to me, I will just give them a dollar and end up having sex with them.
So, as people who will be thinking that they are in love, the end result is that they will end up getting pregnant. The love for food and good things is what is corrupting these children because they do not even want to listen to their parents,” said Mr Maphosa.
Said another miner, Musawenkosi Tshuma: “The problem goes back to parents. Parents should counsel and reprimand their children so that when we talk to them, they show that they are well cultured.
As a community, I think it’s best that you begin by counselling your children then you will come to us based on the conversation you would have had with them on pregnancies.”
He said some parents cry foul when their children become pregnant, but accept gifts that teenagers bring home fully knowing that they are not employed.