Schoolchildren in Swaziland /eSwatini are being taught under trees or in tents instead of classrooms because the government is broke and cannot afford new buildings.
Some schools are relying on the Red Cross to supply tents, the Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (13 May 2019).
It reported, ‘This is as a result of the lack of classrooms, which are supposed to be constructed through the Ministry of Education and Training.’
Lubombo Regional Education Officer (REO) Musa Mthupha told the Times the government faced ‘financial challenges’ and some building projects had been put on hold.
‘He said there was a building programme in place, which did not see the light of day due to the country’s economic turndown,’ the newspaper reported.
News of the lack of funding comes after the Ministry of Education and Training paid more than E40 million to cover the cost of sending police and prison wardens into schools to invigilate examinations at the end of 2018 while teachers were in dispute.
Public services of all kinds in Swaziland are in meltdown because of years of financial mismanagement by governments which are handpicked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch.
At the start of the school year in January 2019 schools across the kingdom remained closed because the government could not fund the free primary education programme. Government is required under 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 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. Many schools were without electricity.
There were also reports that schools did not receive much needed materials such as stationery because suppliers had not been paid. At primary school each child needs at least 14 exercise books and seven text books. One supplier located in Manzini told the Times of Swaziland his company was owed E300,000.
In the past two years children who relied on government food aid – known as the zondle programme – had gone hungry when bills were left unpaid.
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