The Swaziland National Teachers Association (SNAT) staged a demonstration on June 18, demanding that the government address the crisis in the education sector. Following the protest, they delivered a petition to the prime minister’s office and the ministry of education and training.
The crisis is due to a severe shortage of teachers as a result of the government’s decision to freeze new hiring, casualization of primary and secondary school teachers, and the failure to pay education funds to schools.
Since the beginning of this year, no new teachers have been hired to fill up vacancies. “With less than two months to go before the commencement of external examinations, hundreds of learners have not seen an educator since the beginning of the year,” the petition noted.
A circular effective from August last year directed all educational institutions that no staff should be hired, no appointments already made should be confirmed and no teachers must be given promotions until further notice.
This has created a shortage not only of teachers but also of non-teaching staff. At the Vulamehlo primary school, the groundsman, whom the school could not afford to pay anymore, lost his job. The children now “pick up paper, cut grass and sweep the school yard”, Swazi Media Commentary noted.
According to Times of Swaziland, the school has also stopped serving meals to children. There have been a number of cases of children collapsing from hunger in schools. Previously, many schools have shut down due to shortage of funds.
The government has not yet paid the Free Primary Education grant to most schools. In the meantime, Mswati III, the last absolute monarch of Africa who rules this country, has been spending millions on his palaces, his fleet of cars, two private jets and other indulgences of the royal family.
The SNAT has conducted mass mobilizations to force the government to prioritize education over the personal indulgences of the King and his family.