Teenagers Deserve Better
Friday 20th Oct 2000 Donna Awatere Huata Article -- Education
School prize-givings are around the corner and yet again I’m dusting off my “Don’t you dare have a baby” speech.
The catalyst for this speech came from a principal’s letter telling me about a teen pregnancy epidemic at his school. He
asked me to come and speak to his fourth and fifth form students and paint a picture of all the amazing opportunities
the world offers.
I was to motivate them to give sex a miss and concentrate on their brilliant careers. Two pregnant girls would be in the
assembly that I had been asked to address, plus one girl who had just had her baby and would have to finish her exams
later that year.
My attempt to inspire the students to greater things, resulted in the Board of Trustees passing a resolution banning me
from the school.
It’s exactly this head-in-the-sand attitude that had led to a pregnancy outbreak at that school in the first place. What
the Board of Trustees should have done was grab hold of the teen pregnancy issue and start a conversation in their
school community. They needed to find out what was so wrong, that students felt they needed to have babies, and begin to
put it right.
I believe adults must take responsibility for solving the teenage pregnancy problem. Not just leave it in the hands of
the young people themselves.
When parents, and adults involved with teenagers, pretend the teen-pregnancy issue is non-existent the results can be
devastating. Ignoring the issue only shapes and nurtures teenagers even more to have babies.
Parents must talk to their children about sex. They need to be frank and open. Recurring conversations should cover the
boundaries, the rules of whom their children spend their time with, when and what they are doing. And parents need to be
able to monitor their children’s relationships.
Since the bulk of teenage pregnancies involve young women having relationships with older boys or men, parents need to
be vigilant in this regard.
Especially Maori parents. In Hawkes Bay 75% of Maori fourth formers reported having sex, compared to 27% of the rest of
Speaking tours such as mine probably don’t achieve much (in fact since I started the Maori rate of teenage pregnancies
increased from four to five times higher). But the silence concerning teenage pregnancy is scary. Unfortunately, New
Zealand has the third highest teen birth rate in the OECD.
Women’s Refuge has applied for Government funding so they can tackle the home violence prevention. They have decided to
move from being the solution of last resort, and are now focused on healing families and teaching communication and
budgetary skills to parents. They want to break the cycle.
I believe their work should be extended, so parents are taught how communicate with their children. Parents must be
taught to be vigilant and prevent their children ever becoming teenage parents, if their children are to have every
opportunity for a successful life.
For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at