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EZULWINI – Cattle herding is depriving over 11 000 of Swazi children their right to education.

This revelation is contained in the Draft Report on Child Labour In Herding In Rural Areas of Swaziland 2014 which was validated yesterday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and various stakeholders at the Royal Villas. According to the report that is yet to be amended and launched, 11 329 children between the ages of eight and 17 were not attending school because they were engaged in herding. The most affected were teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years where 8 437 were victims followed by 1 917 children aged between eight and 12 years. This is despite the fact that free primary education in Swaziland was introduced in 2010. It was discovered during the study that socio-economic factors and responsibilities seem to be the main drivers of children shifting into herding. This is evident in that the main reason was that they could not afford school fees and this reason was given by about 853 children. The next popular reason for herding given by the children was helping to pay their family debts which was voiced out by 318 children. About 145 of them stated that their reason was to supplement their family income while about 94 said they were not interested in school.

This was a cause for concern for the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) Deputy Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga, who said there was a need to look into the country’s education system. Mhlanga was worried that the country’s education system channelled pupils to move towards acquiring white-collar jobs. What did not sit well with him was that some pupils were not interested in such careers but wanted to be in sports while others were more interested in vocational studies. “We need to review our education system,” Mhlanga emphasised. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education and Training stated that it planned to include vocational studies in the country’s curriculum.
The Federation of Swaziland Trade Unions (FESWATU) Secretary General Jabulani Nxumalo requested that government channels more resources towards children as they were the country’s future. Nxumalo stated that there was a need for legislative reforms and suggested that the attorney general’s office should look into that. He called for a vigorous dissemination of information so that the findings of the report could help the public. An Advocacy and Child Protection Officer at World Vision, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi also emphasised that government had to disseminate information about the findings to the public.

Nhlabatsi stated that his organisation interacted with communities through dialogues at grassroots level and offered to assist in publicising the report. This was welcomed by Labour Commissioner Sipho Tsabedze who instructed his officers to include World Vision as they continue working on the report. The study uncovered that some of the children who were employed as herd men were paid in kind while others were paid in cash. The report does not elaborate on what was meant by paying them in kind.

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