Armed police were deployed at schools across Swaziland to make sure exams took place during a teachers’ pay dispute.
They went to ‘almost all schools’ in the kingdom on Monday (1 October 2018), the first day of national school examinations, according to a media report. Prison warders from the kingdom’s correctional services were also deployed.
Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Zweli Mndzebele ‘alleged that police officers forcefully took over the invigilation job in some of the schools,’ the Times of Swaziland reported.
The Peoples United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III), called the police deployment a ‘militarization of schools’.
In a statement it said, ‘We have learnt with shock this crazy move by the royal regime, which is hell-bent at creating an environment of fear in response to the legitimate and reasonable demands of teachers and other civil servants.’
PUDEMO added, ‘a police state’ had been extended to schools.
The Times reported pupils were ‘shocked’. It added, ‘Head teachers in schools around Lubombo had to calm pupils and allay any fears when armed police officers arrived for the commencement of examinations.’
It added, ‘However, despite the attempts by headteachers, most pupils could not understand what armed officers were doing in the premises of their schools.’
The Times reported, ‘At Malindza High School, pupils were reportedly shocked by the arrival of the police.
‘As such, Headteacher Makhosazane Mkhonta had to explain what the officers were doing within the school premises.
‘“I told them police we here to monitor the examination and not to arrest them for any petty offences they may have committed,” said Mkhonta.’
The Swazi Observer reported plain clothes police ‘disguised as officers from the Examination Council of Eswatini’ entered examination rooms. ‘The uniformed ones spent most of their time at the gates of the schools,’ it added.
It added, ‘In most of the schools that were visited by this publication, uniformed officers were manning the gates while others were patrolling the premises.’
Teachers are campaigning for a 6.55 percent cost of living pay rise, the government says it is broke and has offered zero percent. The industrial Court in Swaziland forced SNAT to postpone a three-day strike due to start on 25 September 2018. SNAT has since said its members would attend school but not work normally.
PUDMO in its statement said the Swazi Government had ‘increased by 28 percent the salaries of the police as an act of “greasing them up” in readiness for creating a militarized environment in the country’.
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