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MBABANE - Will the temporary freezing of hiring in government be detrimental to the quality of education in the country?

This is a concern which has been raised by some educators following that there are a number of vacancies in schools and some have not been filled since the first term. The government issued a circular for the temporary suspension of recruitment on account of budgetary constraints.

Parents have raised concerns that their children, some of whom will sit for external examinations in a few months, were not learning at their schools.
One such school is Swazi National High, which is based in Matsapha. The school’s Deputy Head teacher, only identified as PS Dlamini, said they had some departments which did not have teachers since the first term. He said the school’s head teacher had been frequenting the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to find teachers to fill the vacancies in the school.


He added that the head teacher also reported during the school’s assembly on Thursday that he had not been able to get the new required teachers.
The deputy said this was a nationwide concern, as some teachers were retiring; some dying and others were leaving to work in other sectors. He said in his school, they currently did not have two Science, one Mathematics and three English teachers. He said only five teachers in the school were teaching Religious Education, instead of the nine or 10 who are required.

He said since some of the teachers were supposed to teach classes which would write external examinations, they had made a contingency plan to co-opt some of those from internal classes to teach the pupils.

The deputy stated that this led to the pupils in the internal classes being neglected, and this would cause serious problems in the future.
“How are we going to close the void that has been created?” he wondered.
Dlamini further said some

of the teachers ended up taking more periods than what they were supposed to take, which would bring more challenges, as it put too much pressure on them.
Dlamini stated that the quality of education was being compromised because the teachers would easily get tired, and not do their jobs to their best ability.

prepare for classes

He said besides teaching, teachers were supposed to mark scripts, and those had also increased, and they also had to prepare for the classes.
“The workload is too much, we are really concerned as their supervisors,” Dlamini said.
He said since the teachers had too much on their plates, they would suffer from burnout, leading to them submitting more sick sheets.

He added that in coming up with their plan, the government could have identified some sectors where hiring should not be suspended, which would include health and education. Dlamini said government could have also come up with a time frame on when recruitment in government could start again.
 “The ministry of education, on the other hand, has told us not to conduct lessons during weekends and when schools are closed, as the time allocated for learning was adequate,” he said.

He further said in addition to that, government had not hired any teachers and that some who were working on contract basis did not have their agreements renewed.

Dlamini said the internal classes were far behind with their syllabuses, and this would also cause future problems. His stance was supported by the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT). The union’s Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini said this was a serious problem to the quality of education and the welfare of their members.

Sikelela said some pupils just wasted their parents’ money by going to school and not learning, which had been the case since the first term. He said the classes without teachers also affected learning pupils, as they would make noise, and disturb everyone because they did not have anyone supervising them.

“This will have adverse effects on the pupils future because at the end of the year, they would not have covered everything that they were supposed to learn,” he said.

He further added that head teachers who were also their members were negatively affected by government’s stance because it caused stress and compromised their health and wellbeing.

half-cooked pupils

Sikelela argued that the shortage of teachers in schools would also compromise the global competitiveness of the local education. He said the pupils would be half cooked, and would not be able to compete with others. He further said the TSC went against the circular and hired some teachers at the beginning of the year, but the commission then stopped. He also added that it was really concerning as not only hiring had been stopped, but contracts for those who had been hired in previous years had not been renewed, bringing strain to the country’s education system.

“I believe that if government has financial challenges, certain activities that take place in the country could have been stopped, instead of freezing hiring of teachers,” he said.

raised their concerns

Welcome Mhlanga of the Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) said their members had also raised their concerns with them. Mhlanga, who is the Head teacher at Hermain Gmeiner High School, said his school was also affected by the shortage of teachers.

Mhlanga said they had resolved during a meeting that they would visit the minister of education and training tomorrow to get answers on why hiring of teachers had been stopped. Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Training Dr Sibongile Mtshali confirmed that there were many vacancies in schools, which included head teachers, heads of department and teachers. She said these vacancies were a result of various reasons, including retirement of teachers.

She said the ministry was not just folding its arms and not doing anything about the issue. Dr Mtshali said following the circular, a process was spelt out to them. She explained that a ministry should write to the ministry of public service, asking to recruit new staff members.

She said the ministry of public Service would then write to Cabinet about the vacancies. Dr Mtshali said Cabinet would then consult with the Ministry of Finance to see if there was any money available to pay the new recruits, and if there were available funds, allow the ministry to recruit.
“We are doing something about the vacancies in school. This is because of the fiscal challenges government is facing and we are not trying to spite teachers,” she said.

Dr Mtshali said the government was facing economic challenges, and that was the reason recruitment had been temporarily stopped.
She said the ministry had been trying to sort a mess which occurred when 2 196 teachers were recruited in January without the correct processes being followed.

“We thought that because it was schools and teachers were needed, it was okay to recruit them without following procedure,” she said.
Dr Mtshali explained that the new teachers had not been paid their salaries until April. She said the government had been working on paying the teachers and they had all been successfully paid.
She said the problem was not limited to only their ministry, but all are affected because of the country’s economic challenges.

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