Preschools dig into parents pockets
EZULWINI – While it costs parents up to E9 000 per year to have their children attend urban preschools, Nyonyane Community Preschool charges only E1 200.
This modest school charges E400 per term.
The school has an enrolment of only 10 pupils this year and does not have all the luxuries associated with sophisticated city schools.
Pupils do not have toys to play with during lessons and it does not have charts or any teaching aids.
The situation is dire because the physical environment in which they are taught is not stimulating either.
There are no books, play material, writing material, furniture or outside play equipment.
The premises are made of bare flat rooms; bare grounds with a pit latrine and no descent ablution facilities. Poverty has forced the school to be less equipped to care for the children.
The pupils’ learning experience is complete only with songs and the recitation of alphabets they cannot even see.
When the Times SUNDAY team visited the school this week, 10 pupils were found learning to count.
They shouted numbers from one to 10. Sibongile Goveia was in charge. The school is located at Ezulwini, in an area that is not too detached from the luxurious Ezulwini valley. The only equipment available for the children as toys are empty soft drink cans which teacher Goveia said the pupils shared whenever they played in the middle of classes and during break time. Some of the pupils get injured in the process but they are always happy to attend school. Goveia also said due to the poverty situation of the community, most of the pupils come to school hungry.
"We cannot help the situation. We would love to cook for them but we do not have the means to do that," she said.
Goveia said the school had been operating like this for 17 years.
"Our biggest problem is that parents do not pay school fees thus we are not able to buy anything to assist these children in their learning because of this problem," she said. Many of her former pupils are now at primary or high school. They left without having paid.
Goveia said she worked hard every day to prepare the pupils for primary school education but her efforts were always watered down by the lack of facilities.
She is forced to teach some of the pupils without being paid.
"When I started working in this school, we agreed with the owners (community members) that I was to be paid E1 500 as salary per month," she said.
This has not been possible because the school does not make that kind of money since parents do not have money to pay fees for their children.
She also said due to the poverty situation in the community, most parents are opting not to send their children to school because they cannot afford to pay the fees.
They are also not able to prepare food for them for their lunch boxes.
…Macford’s preschool not so expensive
MANZINI - Elangeni English Medium Preschool located at Fairview in Manzini, owned by Ntombi Nkosi, charges E950 per term.
The school ranks among the least expensive private schools.
Nkosi has a number of products who are making it big in the society.
These are Macford Sibandze, Minister of Tourism and Enviro-nmental Affairs, Dr Sukumani, a medical doctor and a host of others.
Nkosi said she has successfully produced the best pupils due to her diligence in teaching pupils what she termed foundation education.
She said preschool education is important because it provides the foundation which is useful in the continuity of the children’s educ-ation.
High fees, high schools and high hopes
MANZINI – At urban preschools such as the Stepping Stone in Manzini, parents pay up to E3 500 per term for their children.
At the Little Brown Hen in Mbabane, parents pay E3 300.
The Little School kindergarten charges E3 350 per term for the young ones education.
In Pigg’s Peak, Hlanganani Preschool expects at least E2 300 per term.
These are among many city and town preschools that charge fees higher than what parents pay for the education of their children at high school.
The famous Ka-Boyce High school for instance, charges E3 500 per annum for Form 1 tuition.
Egebeni High, a school located in the Manzini region charges E2 475 per annum.
Pupils who attend Manzini Central High have to pay E4 615 per annum. Manzini Nazarene High school charges E5 700 which includes books and schools fees but excludes uniform.
Janine Stewart of the Little Brown Hen preschool says her English medium school is already full for the term.
The private school offers the best customised education to learners.
The school also teaches learners Christian values, instils morals and pupils are taught morals suitable for their growth.
The school believes that children should be taught to work independently in their thinking and learning from a younger age.
Most of the preschool’s graduates later go to Sifundzani and Usutu Forest primary schools. According to Steward the school is checked at least twice by officials from the Ministry of education for compliance to guidelines standards of preschool education.
"We are a big family here. Our school is more of a home away from home. We are a dedicated team of teachers who work hard to satisfy educational needs of individual children." The school’s classes are not overcrowded and Stewart says it is due to this reason that the school is turning away parents who want to enrol their children because classes are full.
Her school is also socially responsible. Recently, the tiny tots donated clothes, toys and food items to Gone Rural boMake a non profit making organisation that looks after needy children.
Annadale preschool is also another school that has the best facilities for pupils. The school has an enrolment of 170 to 180 pupils spread in the grades which are demarcated by ages of the pupils. The school charges E1 500 per term. Annadale is a Christian oriented school and there are five classes to accommodate pupils. The school is an epitome of class, with excellent facilities. It provides pupils with toys, learning material and up to standard playing facilities.
"What makes it different from others is that we love what we do and we love the children," said Joyce Mmari, an official.
"We teach pupils to be self sufficient, to respect and to love one another. We are preparing them to be tomorrow’s leaders," she said.
She also said the school’s mission was to offer the best affordable education.
"We charge realistic fees that are manageable to every parent and we pride ourselves for producing the best learners for Grade 1," she said.