Mbabane: The phased approach to the opening of schools got underway this morning following an interrupted schools calendar caused by the political and social unrest that has swept Eswatini since June 2021.
The resumption of classes was announced by the Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard Mabuza last week Friday.
The political unrest affected the key education sector and a decision was taken by the government to close all schools in order to control the chaotic destruction that was caused by the learners. School children burnt infrastructure and equipment such as desks, chairs, and laboratory equipment. More than 80 schools were affected in all four regions of the country.
The first phase of the schools re-opening will begin with completing classes. These are Grade VIII, Form III, and Form V. The remaining classes will re-open at a date yet to be announced. Learners who attend boarding facilities were all expected back in their hostels yesterday in order to be present for the resumption of classes.
As part of the re-opening of schools, the Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard Mabuza said “the Ministry of Public Service has allocated some additional teacher posts and the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) has already advertised. We are expecting all teachers to report to work or face the no-work no-pay rule.”
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has also agreed to return to classes despite the fact that they have grievances that have not been entirely addressed by the Ministry of Education and Training. These include the non-payment of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) and free primary education (FPE) funds.
Central to these demands are those that were made by the learners such as administrative issues, and the demand for immediate political reforms. The Secretary-General of the SNAT, Sikelela Dlamini said “teachers will return to school to assess the condition on the ground in terms of the provision of facilities and materials that will assist us to work.”
Minister Mabuza said “government is processing the payment of OVC and FPE grants and hopefully by the end of the week we will have completed the process. We will also continue to provide security at various schools because we cannot take chances after some of them were vandalized and burnt.”
Despite the ongoing preparations for the re-opening of the schools, some parliamentarians have expressed their skepticism about the process. Nkilongo Member of Parliament Timothy Myeni submitted before the House of Assembly that “the government had erred by announcing the re-opening of schools without presenting a comprehensive preparedness plan to the legislature. The re-opening of schools should have continued to be suspended until all the issues raised by parents, teachers, and pupils were addressed.”