12 February 2018

Swaziland: Students March On Government

University students in Swaziland have boycotted classes and marched on the government protesting against unpaid and inadequate allowances.

The University of Swaziland (UNISWA) and the Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) have been affected.

The problem of delayed student allowances is not new as public services across the kingdom have been hit by the Swazi Government mishandling of the economy. Hospitals and health centres have run dry of medicines and blood. Schools are unable to run vital food programs for starving children and schools are without teachers.

SANU students were due to march and deliver a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Swaziland Higher Education Council (SHEC) on Monday (12 February 2018). The petition came after a class boycott that started at the previous Wednesday and is continuing.

Students at SANU have a number of issues included in their petition including delayed payment of allowances for first-year students, withholding of ongoing students allowances, unreasonable allowance reduction, lack of project allowances, exorbitant fees and poor infrastructure.

Students at UNISWA have also boycotted classes and marched to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in protest over delayed and inadequate allowances. A total of 634 students received their allowances last Wednesday but this did not end the protests as this did not include students at UNISWA's main Kwaluseni campus.

At the end of January 2018 at least 11 students from Swaziland Christian University were arrested protesting about delays in receiving allowances and problems over graduation. A local newspaper report said police fired live bullets during the protest.

Meanwhile, William Pitcher Teacher's Training College is also closed indefinitely after a strike over allowances. The students were ordered to vacate the premises and those who were to be found on the premises were informed that they would be charged with trespassing.

The Swazi Government always delays payment of allowances at the beginning of university semesters and this leads to student protests. After the start of the previous semester in October 2017 armed police entered college campuses in Swaziland as students across the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch boycotted classes.

Police were at the UNISWA; the private university, Limkokwing; and also at the William Pitcher teacher training college. Campuses had been closed and reopened across Swaziland several times since the semester began nearly two months previously. The Government had promised to pay all allowances by the end of September but this had not been done.

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time that an officer from the riot squad the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU) injured his hand at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology when a stun grenade prematurely went off.

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