Thursday, March 12, 2020

Swaziland pupils boycott classes in protest against teacher shortage

Pupils at a school in Swaziland (eSwatini) boycotted classes in protest at a shortage of teachers.

Education is in crisis across the kingdom because the government is broke. Many schools are short of teachers and support staff and without basic supplies because the government has not paid suppliers.

The protest took place at KaMkhweli High School on Wednesday (11 March 2020). Pupils had also protested last month.

In the latest protest police were called after senior pupils led a class boycott and chanted slogans and waved tree branches at the school gates.

The Times of eSwatini reported, ‘According to a source, since the beginning of the year, Form V pupils have not been learning science subjects, geography and history because there are no teachers specialising in the aforementioned subjects.’

It added some pupils allegedly made threats against teachers.

They returned to classes after Siphofaneni Member of Parliament Mduduzi Simelane mediated between pupils and school authorities.

Police said no damage was done to property during the protest.

Public services across Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as an absolute monarch, are in meltdown because the government he handpicked is broke.

In January 2020 it was reported six in ten school support staff had not been paid for the previous three months. 

Phumelele Zulu of the Swaziland Union in Learning and Allied Institutions (SULAI) said 60 percent of its 860 members were owed salaries amounting to E5 million.

In July 2019 Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza met school principals as schools in the kingdom crumbled through lack of funding.

The Swazi Government had not paid schools fees and support staff were sacked as a result. Teaching supplies ran out and in some schools pupils had been without a teacher for more than a year.

The Minister said that plans for building new schools had been put on hold and hiring of teaching staff was frozen.

More than six in ten schools in Swaziland did not have enough teachers because of government financial cutbacks, the eSwatini Principals Association (EPA) President Welcome Mhlanga had previously said.

Howard-Mabuza said the government was broke and could not afford to finance education.

The problem is not new as the government has run the economy into the ground over many years. Public services across the kingdom, including health, education and policing are crumbling. It is unclear how much the government owes and it has itself reported the figure as E4.2 billion (US$260 million) and E2.2 billion.

See also

Swaziland schools run out supplies, exams threatened, as govt financial meltdown bites

Swaziland Government blocks funds to primary schools in row over pupil numbers

Swaziland breaks promise to pay off its suppliers to halt public services meltdown

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