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FREE SECONDARY EDUCATION

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Sir,

Let me start by greeting readers of this publication; for quite some time now, we have been quiet as students due to fear of victimisation within our learning institutions.

Nevertheless, the ‘fear of the unknown always exists’ within students especially when challenging the inefficiency of our government in the administration of our education in particular the administration of scholarships.


I am concerned that since 2009 when government grudgingly adhered to the constitutional provision that every Swazi child had the right to free education in public schools, there has never been consensus between school heads and the Ministry of Education. Instead the vocal head teachers  have been victimised. These two parties have been at each other’s throats since the court application filed to force government to comply with Section 29(6) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Eswatini Act, 2005.


Lest we forget, Free Primary Education was supposed to be introduced in the kingdom in 2008. There was a delay, with government saying there was not enough money. The nation was wondering what this meant, when the same government had embarked on a number of capital projects that had the makings of white elephants in waiting and did not seem to have a problem spending without asking the price on all three security forces.

Even today there is no money for free secondary education, no money for free tertiary education. Why? The nation is still aghast. In fact, the Constitution suggested that this programme should cover all learners in primary school beginning with Grade One and up to Grade Seven.

The specific clause in the Constitution was later a subject for debate, with government lawyers arguing that the words beginning with the first grade meant that only Grade One learners were expected to go to school and start learning without any payment required from their parents or guardians.


In the end, it became clear that this phrase previously taken at face value to mean what we all hoped it meant, was ambiguous. So it was that Free Education as it is known was only introduced in stages- beginning with the first Graders. This goes against the spirit of the Constitution but in this country where emaSwati are told what to think, say and how to understand constitutional clauses, the programme was spread out over seven long years.

Today we speak of Free Secondary Education that could soon be introduced in the country if a recommendation (not a constitutional clause this time around) by the Ministry of Education and Training succeeds. As a country we do need this Free Secondary Education because statistics show that each year government loses about 7 000 pupils from the education system. These are the pupils who pass Standard Five but fail to reach Form Three.

Regrettably, government has never presented itself as one that even knows the meaning of fiscal discipline. It buys new cars for all meetings, changes expensive official vehicles for politicians like a baby changes its napkins. It keeps creating unnecessary jobs in the security forces which will not be fighting any war even in 2022.

Chair

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