Monday, November 16, 2020

Swaziland’s largest university closed as students protest over unpaid scholarships

The largest university in Swaziland (eSwatini) has stopped in-class teaching and sent students home until further notice after protests against the non-payment of scholarships.


The move was confirmed on state radio by University of eSwatini (formerly UNISWA) Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane. He said classes would continue for students studying online during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.


The closure which has become a regular event in recent years came as students called for a 60 percent increase in the level of scholarships. They also want all students who are qualified and want them to be given government scholarships. One immediate concern is that 1,500 first-year students who recently started courses have not been awarded scholarships.


They marched on parliament last week to deliver a petition. Students from the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology are also protesting. 


Separately, Thulani Mkhaliphi, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, criticised the students on state radio. He reportedly said, ‘When we award scholarships, we analyse even the conduct of that child, respect is part of those qualities, we cannot award government scholarship to Emahlongandlebe (disrespecting individuals). They want a government scholarship but now they are protesting, we will monitor them very closely.’


The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, reported Mlamuli Gumedze, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), said students decided to protest because Mkhaliphi would not engage with them to explain why they were denied scholarships.


Mbongwa Dlamini, President for the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), said his union supported the students. Wander Mkhonza, Secretary General of the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) also added support.


The Swazi Government regularly pays student scholarships late and only after students engage in protest action. In August 2019 student leaders said police detained and tortured seven students after a protest march in the capital, Mbabane. They had marched to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to deliver a petition regarding the payment of allowances, scholarships for all admitted first year students and involvement of students in decision-making.


In November 2019 police fired live ammunition and shot a university student with a rubber bullet at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini during class boycotts. Students across the kingdom were angry that the government failed to keep its promise to pay them their allowances for books, accommodation and other equipment.


There is an ongoing dispute between students and the government over the payment of scholarships and allowances that cover fees, living expenses and items such as books. In May 2017, SNUS launched a campaign for scholarships for all. Students want all students admitted to higher learning institutions to have scholarships, regardless of the programme they are doing or the institution they are in.


See also

Swaziland Government breaks promise to pay overdue student allowances


Swaziland police hold and ‘torture’ students after protest march on Govt ministry


Swaziland police fire gunshots and shoot student with rubber bullet as campus protests continue


Swaziland students boycott classes as Govt. breaks promise to pay allowances 


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