WINDHOEK, Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has proposed compulsory contraceptives for school-going girls in order to prevent escalating teenage pregnancies.

The minister is of the opinion that parents should give approval alongside the concerned girls before using such contraceptives.

Hanse-Himarwa suggested that public hearings be held to gather input from society, parents, learners, the church and other necessary stakeholders on the matter.

The minister made her input during the national gender advisory committee high-level dialogue on the national gender policy, organised by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.

Hanse-Himarwa proposed the idea after the gender ministry's permanent secretary Wilhencia Uiras pointed out that high teenage pregnancies were identified as a problem at the regional gender permanent task force.

The one-day event was held in Windhoek and was attended by regional governors, their advisors and ministers, deputy ministers and permanent secretaries, amongst other officials.

Hanse-Himarwa maintained the country has done and continues to do everything in its power to create awareness and sensitise learners to abstain from sexual intercourse.

"I know this is a controversial one and I will get a lot opposition and pressure from parents and churches but as I said, the problem is with us and sometimes we need to take unpopular decisions," she said.

"Why can't we have public hearings to gather input form society, parents, learners, churches and whomever are the necessary stakeholders that compulsory contraception to be given to learners?" she remarked.

The minister said a lot of discussion is expected to go into this. She added that at school level, parents and the concerned girls should give their consent.

"Of course, there will be those who will say 'my daughter will not be given contraception' or the learner saying 'I will not take contraceptives', but at least let's have a starting point. I say when they are sexually active, let's give them contraceptives to prevent these escalating pregnancies. Those who choose not to take will not take but at least we will be able to help a quarter of those who say 'indeed I need this or I want my girl to take this'," she stated.

The minister added that forms will be designed and parents will give approval along with the daughters' consent.

According to a newspaper report, Ohangwena Region has one of the highest rate of teenage pregnancies.

The report stated 109 pupils fell pregnant in Ohangwena during the first trimester this year, which includes 16 primary school learners.