Mbabane: In the 2021/22 financial year, the government of Eswatini has fell below the international benchmark of 15% of total government expenditure for education.
In this year, government allocated the Ministry of Education 14.5 percent of total national budget.
According to the budget speech announced by the Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg, government allocated E3.5 billion to the Ministry of Education and Training to cater for all educational and training programmes. This figure represents 14.5 percent of the total national budget.
The total budget for this 2021/2022 financial year will be E24.04 billion which indicates an increase when compared to the previous year’s budget of E23.4 billion.
This year’s education share reflects a failure of government from matching the expectations of Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) as they mentioned a couple of days ago that they were expecting nothing less than the E3.5 billion which has been initially granted. However, this year’s budget is below the 15 percent benchmark.
On the previous year, 2020, the government bragged to be above the international benchmark of 15% of total government expenditure. On last year’s budget speech, the Minister of Finance said an international study has shown that Eswatini is among the top ten investors in education in the world relative to our GDP per capita.
When delivering this year’s budget speech, which is his 3rd budget speech, the Finance Minister said as the country embraces the new normal brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Government’s focus is on putting technology and blended learning at the centre of all education reforms.
The Minister said the government is recognizing the importance of human capital as a contributor to economic growth, and the government was working with the World Bank to prepare a Human Capital Project that is geared towards holistic child development, improving learning outcomes for school going children and adequately preparing eSwatini’s adolescents and youth to become globally competitive citizens.
He said to achieve these goals Government will;
Support strengthening of the Early Childhood Care and Education programme to improve the quality of education services offered to children aged 3- 5 years.
Intensify efforts to bring all learners back to school while ensuring that they are safe and protected from the coronavirus pandemic.
In line with this, Government will enrich the school feeding basket by supporting the home-grown school feeding programme whereby some food commodities such as vegetables and eggs will be sourced from local farmers who are within reach of each particular school.
Rijkenberg said in an effort to ensure that no child is left behind, Government will continue to support children with special education needs, the marginalized, orphaned and vulnerable children.
Government will furthermore continue to strengthen higher education including Technical Vocational Education and Training programmes to facilitate the acquisition of skills needed by the country.
He added that through Eswatini Higher Education Council (ESHEC), Government will continue to accredit programmes on offer and regulate the institutions as a way of ensuring quality education.
In the 2020/21 budget Government provided the education sector with a budget amounting to E69.6 million which has been used to install hand washing facilities and to procure water tanks and PPEs for schools and education institutions throughout the country. Moving forward, Government plans to institutionalize the home-based learning programme offered through the national radio, television and print media to complement face to face learning.