Teachers and the government in Swaziland (eSwatini) are arguing about closing schools during the coronavirus crisis.
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) told its members not to teach but the Minister of Education later said SNAT had no authority to close schools.
At a press conference on Monday (16 March 2020) SNAT President Mbongwa Dlamini said the Occupational Safety and Health allowed staff to remove themselves from danger when they had a justifiable reason to believe they were in imminent and serious risk within the workplace.
He added the Swazi Government was not doing enough to combat coronavirus.
Later, Lady Howard Mabuza, the Minister of Education and Training, told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, that SNAT had no authority to order school closures. She said, ‘The law they are using does not allow them to just leave the workplace and shut down schools, they have a legal obligation to engage the employer first. For now, we appeal for claim, Prime Minister will issue a statement soon on the next step.’
Responding, Mbongwa Dlamini said its members would not report for duty. ‘The way government is handling this issue suggests that she doesn’t care with lives of our members and we have a duty to protect them,’ he said.
Separately, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini was criticised in the House of Assembly for ‘its deafening silence’ over the coronavirus pandemic.
The Times of eSwatini reported members wanted to know if the birthday celebrations of absolute monarch King Mswati III would still take place in April and whether Easter services were going to be held.
The eSwatini Observer reported the Prime Minister was expected to make a statement on Tuesday (17 March 2020).
Meanwhile, neighbouring South Africa has declared a state of emergency and closed many border posts, including six of the 11 it has with Swaziland. Swaziland is a landlocked kingdom surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.
As of 16 March 2020 there had been only one reported confirmed case of coronavirus in Swaziland.
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