Friday, September 2, 2011


UNISWA, Swaziland’s only university, has reopened a month late for the new academic year, but the nearly 6,000 students are boycotting classes over cuts in their allowances, which the government says will only be paid in a few months’ time, the IRIN news agency reports.

The deepening economic crisis, which has led neighbouring South Africa to agree to a R2.4 billion (US$370 million) loan to prevent an economic meltdown, is seeing cost savings being implemented at the expense of the country’s poor and vulnerable, where 70 percent of the 1.1 million population live below the poverty line.

“These allowances not only pay for students’ room and board, transport and books but they also are used by families to pay for the education of the students’ relatives. This suspension will lead to a domino effect throughout the education system so that none but the rich are able to afford schooling,” Ntombi Dlamini, one of the affected university students, told IRIN.

The government has said allowances which ranged from US$3,500 per annum for students living off campus, to $1,250 for students living on campus, would be reduced by 60 percent.

Irene Ndwandwe, a university student, told IRIN: “People accuse us of squandering our allowances on frivolous things, but I live very frugally and every cent I can save I send to my family who live in very impoverished conditions in a rural area.”

The money she sends home is used by her family to pay grade five school fees for her 10-year-old sister and although the government is constitutionally bound to provide free primary schooling, it is currently only exempting fees up to grade three.

To read the full report from IRIN, click here.

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