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 DURING our high school days we were told that education was the key to success. At that time we did not fully comprehend the real meaning of this.

We just thought that we were going to school just because our parents said so. This is the mentality of government; they do not comprehend the importance of education. The fact that the most successful governments invest a lot in their education rings no bell to our government. This worries me because it seems government is mostly concerned with the army. If you do not agree with me, just look at the national budget and you will see where the priority of our government is.

The Constitution of Swaziland, Section 59(2)(e), provides that the State shall take all necessary steps to establish a sound and healthy economy whose underlying principles shall include the recognition that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty. At this day and age, education is a basic necessity. To develop a sound economy the country needs people who are educated; and by education I do not mean only going to school but getting quality education once there.

That education is a necessity was recognised by the drafters of the Constitution, hence education in the country’s Constitution appears under the Bill of Rights. The kingdom is bound by the Constitution to provide education to the Swazi child at least up to the end of primary school.

I am, however, surprised to hear government saying its responsibility is to take a child through primary school. In my opinion that is not the correct interpretation of the section. Government is bound to provide education to the Swazi child up to the highest qualification but the minimum standard that they can offer to the child is up to the end of primary school. It is wrong therefore to say government should only provide education up to primary school.

The drafters of the Constitution had the view that education is necessary for the development of the country because they included Section 60(8) in it. The section provides that ‘without compromising quality the State shall promote free and compulsory basic education for all’.

The question that has to be answered is what is basic education? Is getting to the end of primary school enough to be called basic education in the country? Is the education offered under the Free Primary Education in the country not compromising the quality of education? If it compromises it, is that not in opposition to the provision of Section 60? My opinion is also influenced by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which our country is a signatory. Article 26 of the declaration provides that everyone has the right to education.

Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. The provision of the declaration makes provision that education should be free at least at elementary and fundamental stages. My opinion is that fundamental education should go up to high school in our case.

I base this on the fact that the Article then mentions technical and professional education which must be made generally available. This means technical and professional education cannot be free but must be available. So our high schools offer no technical or professional education and therefore I am convinced to refer to it as fundamental stages.

But government is not doing what it signed for in the declaration or what is provided by Section 60 of the Constitution. Teachers in primary schools are complaining that they are now teaching a lot of pupils in a single class. The teacher/pupil ration is no longer complied with.

They complain that government is not paying on time and therefore they sometimes run out of teaching material. In my opinion all of these compromise the quality of education which is against the provisions of Section 60. The fact that the food to feed the children is also not delivered on time also compromises the education of the children.

What is happening at the university is further proof that government does not value education. How can students go to class without books? How can the learning process go on when the students have no stationery? Why is government not negotiating with the university to give the students stationery and it will pay later? If there was no money, they should not have signed scholarship agreements with the students. Education is not prioritised in this country and the Constitution is violated by the government that is supposed to protect it.  

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