2 March 2018

Swaziland: Primary Schools Grinding to a Halt

Photo: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS
UNICEF says in many parts of the African continent children are living beyond their fifth birthday, more children are going to school and more children are better equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. Pictured here are students at Motshane Primary School, Mbabane, Swaziland.

Teaching in primary schools across Swaziland is grinding to a halt and some salaries have not been paid because government has not released funds. Some schools are unable to buy food for children.

The Swazi Government is refusing to release money because many children do not have personal identification numbers (PINs); some parents do not have birth certificates for their children.

The problem has been going on since the school year started in January 2018. Shiselweni, Manzini and Lubombo are among the regions affected, according to the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (25 February 2018).

Government is refusing to pay fees under the free primary education (FPE) scheme. Government pays E580 (US$48) per child. The newspaper reported one headteacher saying, 'Government returned claim forms for Shiselweni, Manzini and Lubombo because some learners have no Personal Identification Numbers (PIN). We have so far pushed parents to get birth certificates for their children. Some did but not for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) it is not easy since the ministry of home affairs demands things they don't have.'

The newspaper reported, 'The principals stated that they had tried their best to encourage the parents and guardians to get the PINs for the children but they faced difficulty at the Ministry of Home Affairs as they said the requirements needed were nearly impossible to meet. They said what made matters worse was that though they may be few pupils in the schools who do not have the PINs the entire school was suffered. Others said even omitting those without the PINs would not solve the problem. This they said will mean those pupils would have to be sent home because they would not have stationery and books as government would only provide for those listed in the claim forms.'

Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) President Welcome Mhlanga said it was unfair on principals not to release funds to schools as it was not their duty to register certificates for children but a role of the parents, guardians and communities.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Friday (2 March 2018) that the need for PINs was a new rule and school principals said they had not been consulted not given adequate time to prepare.

The newspaper said some parents wanted the matter refereed to King Mswati III. King Mswati is an absolute monarch and if he says children can be admitted to school without PINs, the government which is not elected but handpicked by him, would comply.

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