Private as well as public schools in Swaziland are to be forced to conduct lessons in siSwati, the mother tongue of Swazi people, and applicants to universities and tertiary colleges will be made to take an application test in the language.
This follows an edict from Swaziland's unelected Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
The unexpected announcement is already causing confusing in education circles in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.
The Times of Swaziland reported that Dlamini told a gathering to mark International Mother Language Day on Wednesday (22 February 2017), 'In all public and private primary schools in Swaziland, up to and including Grade IV, a child's education will be conducted in siSwati.
'In the later grades of primary education, and in all high schools, siSwati will be one of the compulsory subjects in the curriculum. And before admission to tertiary education, all applicants will be required to take a competency test in siSwati.'
Later, Phineas Magagula, the Swaziland Minister of Education and Training, clarified the PM's statement. Magagula said Swaziland was not doing away with other languages in schools but siSwati would be a core subject.
Later, in a further clarification, the Prime Minister said the new policy would not be implemented overnight. The Ministry of Education would appoint a 'siSwati Board' to oversee it, he said.
There is still no clarification about the role of siSwati in colleges and universities. If the language is compulsory it would almost certainly made it impossible for students from outside Swaziland to enrol for programmes.