31 schoolgirl pregnancies last year
There were 31 cases of pregnancies involving girls aged up to 16 last year, the House Family Affairs Committee heard this evening.
There was one case in the past few years where a school girl got pregnant at 13 and again at 15.
The statistics were given by Micheline Sciberras, director in the education services directorate, and Sandra Cortis, service manager.
Dr Sciberras said there were 74 teenage pregnancies (up to 16 years old) in 2008, 43 in 2009, 47 in 2010, 31 last year and 27 so far this year. The numbers then rose in the 16-19 age bracket.
The committee was discussing teenage pregnancies.
Dr Sciberras said the number of teenage mothers who opted to continue their studies was low, most girls opting to leave school as soon as their pregnancy became apparent. However there were some cases where a few girls returns to the classroom and even continued post-secondary education.
The authorities, she explained offered services to prevent schoolgirls from getting pregnant and also offered support to them and their parents should pregnancies take place. Assistance and encouragement were also offered to the fathers where possible, although such relationships often did not last long.
Education, she explained, went beyond the academic and was more holistic, including the sexual dimension. Over the past five years substantial investment had been made in student support services including youth workers and specialists in various sectors such as behaviour.
The girls were helped not only to take care of themselves and their babies, but also self-empowerment so that, as far as possible, they were not dependant on social services.
Replying to a question by committee president Jean-Pierre Farrugia (PN), Dr Sciberras said quite a number of schoolgirls were sexually active. Counsellors sought to help them as far as possible, mindful, however, that the young teenagers were at different stages of development.
It was hoped that services would become more personalised in the future.
She also said that character formation in its various aspects including relationship education, self-esteem and assertiveness needed to be given greater emphasis at school, with many of the girls saying they had been unable to say 'no' to their boyfriends.
Charlo Bonnici (PN) said emphasis also needed to be placed on responsibility.