Saturday, December 12, 2009


Swazi schoolchildren who will have to learn about the presently banned pro-democracy groups in Swaziland as part of their history exams classes are up against a major problem – there are no books.

This isn’t the usual problem about the near bankrupt kingdom of Swaziland not being able to afford to supply books, This time the problem is more complex: the books haven’t been written.

The history of the struggle for democracy in Swaziland is largely an unwritten one. Which local publisher would dare to allow a book that was against King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, onto the shelves?

I have cast doubts that the new history syllabus required for the new Swaziland General Certificate of Secondary Education by Cambridge University would ever see the light of day and here’s another reason to be sceptical.

The new syllabus requires students to work under their own steam and research historical subjects. This goes against the traditional method of teaching (at school and university) in Swaziland which is dictation and note taking.

In schoolchildren are to ‘research’ they must have materials to research from.

According to the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, the unavailability of books and other material will require teachers to invite people who know about the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and its demands, to visit schools to make presentations.

PUDEMO and its youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), have already said that they are willing and able to do this on request.

Because no books are available, the only available sources are the people who were present during the era of the struggle for democracy, which continues to the day.

Meanwhile, Mphandlana Shongwe, a schoolteacher, says he, is writing a book which will document the history of PUDEMO.

‘At the end, after reading the book, I want Swazis to know that PUDEMO is not a terrorist group as the state wants the nation to believe,’ he said.

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