The Swaziland National Association of Teachers wants at least 5,000 permanent new teacher posts to be created before schools can reopen safely following the coronavirus crisis.
The Swaziland (eSwatini) Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard Mabuza has ordered schools to reopen on 29 March 2021.
Sikelela Dlamini, SNAT Secretary General, said the Swazi Government must also provide materials, including adequate water supplies and personal protective equipment in all the 933 public schools in the kingdom.
In a statement Dlamini said, 'The Government must employ at least 5,000 teachers (on a permanent basis) to ensure full compliance regarding the number of learners that each teacher should handle at a particular time (teacher-pupil ratio).
Dlamini said teachers should handle a maximum of 20 pupils in a class.
SNAT is also calling for the urgent vaccination of teachers.
The Education Minister said that not all pupils would attend schools full-time when they reopened.
In a statement, Mabuza said schools had 'not experienced any effective learning since March 2020'.
She added, 'Government's decision to re-open schools is not because the virus has been contained but this is done in consideration of the socioeconomic impact of prolonged school closure. The rate of teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, child labour and early child marriages has notably increased since the closure of schools.'
She called on schools to develop plans for safe reopening that included 'the thermo scanning of learners, demarcating floors in classrooms for social distancing, cleaning schedules, monitoring of COVID-19 (coronavirus) guidelines, ensuring hand washing stations are operational and ensuring learners do not mix during breaks.'
Separately, Minister of Education and Training principal secretary Bertram Stewart told a press conference that parents should pay school fees for the past year even though schools had been closed.
The Saturday Observer reported Stewart said, 'We cannot as government give a directive but the position is that parents have an obligation to pay for their children's education.'