Mbabane: All learners in Eswatini are expected to attend schools this week as the next level of the phased approach to the opening of schools gets underway this morning. Last week only the completing classes returned to their lessons. These were Grade 7, Form 3, and Form 5.
The resumption of classes follows an interrupted school calendar caused by the political and social unrest that has swept Eswatini since June 2021. The Covid 19 Pandemic has also had an adverse effect on the school calendar causing multiple disruptions to the learning schedule over the last two years.
Announcing the re-opening of the schools, the Minister of Education and Training, Lady Howard Mabuza said the government saw the need to reopen the schools because time was running out for pupils as schools has closed for a long.
The phased approach to the school reopening will entail a structured learning schedule in which pre-schools and grades one, two, three, and seven will attend schools every day. Grade four and five will attend on Tuesday and Thursday only and Grade six will attend on Monday Thursday and Friday. At the Secondary and High School levels, Forms one and two will attend on Monday and Thursday; Form four on Tuesday Wednesday, and Friday while Forms three and five will attend classes every day.
Mabuza was at pains to point out that anybody who defied the government’s decision to open schools would face the wrath of the law. “Let it make it clear now that schools are opened by government and no one else has the right to close the schools or prohibit pupils from going to class. The ministry would also like to recognize parents for the role they played in ensuring that learners seamlessly return to class and further commend learners for cooperating.”
Single stream schools and those with an enrollment of up to 150 learners will be expected to attend classes every day across all levels. In response to the announcement by the Minister, the Chairman of the Eswatini Principals Association, Welcome Mhlanga said “the announcement has taken us by surprise. We were still trying to settle in with the few classes that returned last week. There are issues that we had raised in relation to the re-opening which we thought the government would respond to before effecting the complete re-opening of schools.”
Last week the Minister announced that as part of the re-opening of schools “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 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.”
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.”