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CHAOS AHEAD OF SCHOOLS’ THIRD TERM

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MBABANE – A quagmire is what lies ahead of the schools opening for the third term.


The challenge that belies the Ministry of Education and Training comes in different folds and borders on the fiscal challenges the country has been faced with, since last year.


Head teachers have been whining about lack of resources to help them administer schools. And as schools open for the third term tomorrow, the same challenge has been brought forth.


Welcome Mhlanga, President of the Eswatini Principals Association (EPA), cast shade on the smooth opening of schools, as he said: “Most schools have not been paid their grants – free primary education (FPE) and orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) – which are funded by government.”
These funds, Mhlanga pleaded, should be paid this week as external examinations will begin shortly. He said practical subjects required them (head teachers) to buy material used by the pupils when doing their experiments and or demonstrating what they had learned through theory.


“Subjects like consumer science, science and technical drawing demand that we buy material for their practicals. So, without the money, the pupils will have a challenge in doing the practical part of their examinations.” 


Expenses incurred when procuring the items needed for the practical subjects, according to the EPA president, could retail as high as E30 000.


Steep


This, Mhlanga said, was quite a steep amount as many schools were on negative bank balances due to the delay in getting the first tranche of the grants.
Besides the practical external examinations, Mhlanga said, some schools were also seeking to host speech and prize giving days.
These ceremonies, according to the Herman Gmeiner High School head teacher, were necessary to motivate pupils to excel throughout the year and were budgeted for from the schools’ coffers.


Furthermore, he pleaded with government to pay as soon as possible. Failure to do so, he said, would result in the external examinations being in jeopardy.
As a matter of fact, Mhlanga said the money for OVC grants should have been paid in July; however, due to communication and transparency from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, there were engagements on the delay.


“They were fixing the regulations that would be an instrument for the payment of the funds to the various schools.
“However, our challenge is that the regulations will need to be approved by Parliament.”


Pleaded


He pleaded with the Ministry of Education and Training to facilitate the payment of the OVC grant, including those for the FPE programme, for schools to have a smooth third term.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Training Principal Secretary, Bertram Stewart, said those who reported their schools’ challenges to the ministry were aware that all the issues that they were raising were work in progress.


“Why are they reporting to the Times (of Eswatini) yet they were hired by the ministry?” he asked.


This was after he had been questioned on the readiness of the ministry in preparation of the schools opening –for the third term.
Worth noting is that the European Union (EU) had since inception of the FPE programme assisted government with a sponsorship of E140 million in the past eight years. However, that sponsorship lapsed last year.


This left government with an additional expense of about E17 million annually to its bill of FPE. 

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