Saturday, September 17, 2011

No fees, no school.

Mbabane — The future education of Swazi children remains uncertain, as public schools across the country have not reopened for the new term because government has not been able to pay for their upkeep.
Swaziland's cash-strapped government has yet to pay the 13.5 million dollars it owes in school fees for the Free Primary Education Programme (FPEP) and for orphans and vulnerable children. Government pays for pupils in grades one to three under FPEP, and for the entire schooling of orphans and vulnerable children.

Principals use this money to pay for support staff and other running costs of their schools, which include water and electricity, and phone bills. They also use the money to buy teaching materials, like chalk. But principals across this small landlocked country in Southern African have decided to keep schools closed until the money owed has been paid.

Over 300,000 pupils attending public schools are affected by this standoff between the Ministry of Education and Training and the Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA).

On Thursday the Swaziland National Association of Teachers joined SWAPA and took to the streets to demand the payment of fees.

"We're desperate and frustrated," said school principal Roger Mpapane.

"Government is always late with payment and most of the time does not pay the money in full," complained another principal.

Some schools have had their water and electricity disconnected. Without these essential services, said Mpapane, ablution facilities become a health hazard.

Read the rest here.