Buhleni: The Ministry of Education and Training’s Education Policy that says every Swazi citizen has a right to education and training appropriate to their age and needs, has been violated at Buhleni High School where learners have been turned away from classes.
This follows a directive was issued by the Prime Minister, Cleopas Dlamini that schools should re-open on Wednesday 8th September after months of learner inactivity due to the high prevalence of the Covid 19 virus in the country.
The learners were turned away from classes because of the non-payment of school fees. It is alleged that the School Principal, Sipho Shiba is not willing to accept any students at the school who have not paid the complete amount of money of approximately E4000.00.
On Wednesday 9th September a parents meeting was convened in order to address the situation. One of the parents who attended the meeting says “we “are very unhappy with the way that we were addressed by the school principal who told us in no uncertain terms that he was not going to accept any of our children who had not fully paid their school fees.”
“When we attempted to explain that it was not as if we were actually refusing to pay the school fees, but as parents, we were having challenges. The fact that schools were closed and the announcement that they were now to be opened took many of us by surprise. As such we had not made adequate preparations. As it is the fathers of some of the learners were retrenched from their places of employment because of the Covid 19 pandemic. We even tried to reason with him to say that we were willing to at least pay the money in installments but our pleas fell on deaf ears.”
“Shiba and the Chairman of the School Committee, Bheki Mahlalela were not interested in listening to our explanation. Mahlalela even told us that when we as parents give birth to children we must plan for their education. None of the previous school principals treated us the way we are being treated by Shiba.” The parent noted that most of the learners that have been turned away from school are in form three completing class.
In an attempt by this publication to draw a response from the school principal on the situation at the school Shiba refused to comment.
The Regional Education in the Hhohho district Make Langwenya says she has not been informed about the matter at Buhleni High School and as such she cannot give an informed response. Langwenya says “it helps to get the context of the situation as a whole before I can comment. Nonetheless, I will welcome any parent who has a grievance that they cannot resolve with any school administration.”
A teacher at the school who spoke on condition of anonymity divulged that there are 89 learners in the school between form 1 and form 4. He disclosed that the most affected class form 3 where there are only 14 learners in class instead of 45.
The Secretary-General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Sikelela Dlamini says he is not aware of this development. “Nonetheless the running of schools is done according to the policies of the Ministry of Education and Training and teachers are expected to adhere to these policies. If in this case, the Head Teacher is in agreement with the parents that all of the school fees should be paid upfront then it is acceptable. However, if this is not the case and he is rigid then this may cause a problem. Taking such a position may create an adversarial position with the parents which will not bode well for the learning process at the school. Another challenge that may be the reason behind the Head Teachers stance could be that he has not received the second trench of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children’s (OVC) payment from the government and this can make administering the school difficult.