Friday, February 8, 2019

Schools across Swaziland close classes as Govt fails to provide funding

Primary schools across Swaziland / eSwatini have closed classes at the start of the new term because the government has not given them funding.
This means materials including paper and chalk are not available because the so-called Free Primary Education (FPE) grants has not been paid. Electricity bills also cannot be paid.

Government is require by the Swazi Constitution to provide free places for all primary school children. It pays E560 per pupil. In Swaziland, seven in ten people have incomes of about E25 per day.

The Swazi Observer reported one school principal saying, ‘It is very hard to get by without the FPE grant because we heavily rely on it for working material. We haven’t just run out of material but we don’t even have funds to buy electricity which is a necessity at school.

‘Lessons have come to a halt because we can’t help the situation. When schools opened, we used the material that was left from the previous year but it was not enough to sustain us for long and we have exhausted it.’

Meanwhile, many children have been denied places at school because they do not have personal identity numbers (PINs). This is the second year that this problem has happened. Deputy Prime Minister has now said the Ministry of Education and Training should start admitting all Swazi children without PINs at schools.

The Ministry had previously said to avoid audit queries it had to pay fees against a PIN not a name of a pupil.

The funding crisis is not new. In June 2018 headteachers and principals told the Swazi Observer they were in huge debt and unable to pay suppliers. It said the problem was with the government which faced financial challenges. 

The Swaziland national budget has been mismanaged for years. Swaziland is broke and the government is living from hand to mouth. In June 2018 the then Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told the House of Assembly that as of 31 March 2018 government owed E3.28 billion. Dlamini said budget projections indicated ‘exponential growth in the arrears’. 

The spotlight on spending in Swaziland intensified when in April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

See also

Chaos and confusion across Swaziland as new school year starts

Children at risk of food poisoning as Swaziland Govt’s financial crisis continues

No comments: