Friday, September 16, 2011



14 September 2011


Swaziland's financial crisis 'forcing schools to shut'

Most schools in Swaziland are shut because of the financial crisis that has hit the government, the head of the Swaziland Principals Association says.

Charles Bennett told the BBC teachers were boycotting classes at the start of the new term because the government had failed to pay money for school fees.

More than 60% of Swazi school children are poor or orphans, Mr Bennett said.

The government has not yet received a $355m (£218m) loan promised by South Africa to help it pay bills.

The crisis has triggered widespread protests in Swaziland, which is ruled by an absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Last week, opposition supporters burnt images of the king in the second city, Manzini - a rare and punishable offence in a country where the monarch is revered, analysts say.

Mr Bennett said the government owed schools nearly $11m and services had been cut because of the failure to pay bills.

The opposition wants an end to the absolute rule of King Mswati III

"There is no electricity... no water," Mr Bennett told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The feeding programme - which covers most of the pupils - doesn't exist because there is no money to buy food."

Mr Bennett said more than 60% of pupils did not pay school fees because they fell in the category of "orphans and vulnerable children".

Schools were, therefore, heavily dependent on government funding, he said.

"We might be running out of material, such as paper for exams and chalk," Mr Bennett said.

To read more of this report from the BBC, click here.

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