Mbabane: “Quarantine the Form 5s in the various boarding facilities and invest in their education before it is too late,” said the President of the Eswatini National Teachers Association (SNAT) Mbongwa Dlamini. Dlamini said there is no guarantee that the current situation will lessen. By the look of things, the situation is gaining strength despite the number of recoveries recorded by the ministry of health. On April 15, the country recorded its first ever COVID-19 death with a 17th positive confirmed case. He reiterated that there is a lot that needs to be done in the quest to protect the country from the spread of the virus which lately has sent fears of local transmissions.
The teachers’ association issued that Form 5s should be given the main focus and be returned to school. Dlamini told this publication that the government’s idea of teaching learners through media platforms like the EBIS, Eswatini Television and newspapers is good for the country but should be subservient to group learning, or else, said Dlamini, the standard of the education system would be compromised, to the detriment of the learners’ future. Unlike in other countries, the idea of electronic set-up of learning is new and will need a great deal of adjustment on the part of the learners, said the president.
Dlamini said government can adopt strategies such as targeting facilities like boarding schools where all Form 5s would gather together in one place, no matter what school they might come from. This would not be without observing the social distancing practice as dictated by the COVID-19 regulations. Dlamini said for instance schools around Manzini would use the Nazarene or St Michael’s boarding facilities, while adhering to the COVID-19 regulations like disinfecting the halls every now and then. Around Pigg’s Peak learners could use the likes of Mhlatane and around Nhlangano Evelyn Baring. A number of other schools around the country come with boarding facilities and students within close proximity could use them to their advantage, said Dlamini. In this way, a teacher would stand in front of the pupils and administer lessons. Teachers assigned to this task would be paid through the government’s Public Civil Service Risk Allowance. Dlamini said while in those facilities the students would not be allowed to go out for the whole duration of the lockdown in observance of the regulations to stay in one place.
Dlamini said during this time of the COVID-19 outbreak government should exert less pressure on classes like Grade Seven 7 and Form 3 whose external examinations should in fact be scrapped off. He said the Grade 7 and Form 3 external examinations were unnecessary and were a waste of public funds and in fact were not a prerequisite to either a tertiary institution or place of employment. Government should redirect their focus on grooming the more crucial classes who are destined for tertiary education. He said his assertion should not be misconstrued as against government’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus but was bringing balance all for the betterment of the education system. On a parting shot, Dlamini said government should be in the habit of engaging the teachers’ association in matters involving the education landscape of the country.
…he decries lessons through social networks like WhatsAPP
The president of the teachers’ association has condemned the use of social networks like WhatsAPP as learning instruments. He said such tools came with many risks and temptations like the incumbent student/teacher affairs. “Government may not be aware of what students are capable of doing,” said Dlamini, calling for everything with the potential to facilitate corrupt behaviour to be severed. Dlamini told this publication that it was sad that much of their input towards a better education system had turned into lip-service and impracticable, due to government’s refusal to engage the teachers on pertinent issues. He said it was not in the interest of government to engage the teachers’ association but the Eswatini Principal Association (SWAPA) which they manipulated at will. He said government seems bent on working alone and yet were very sluggish. Dlamini made an example of teachers’ replacements, saying they were not taken seriously by the government. He noted that many teachers that had passed away had not been replaced a year later.