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NO FPE GRANTS AS SCHOOLS FAIL TO SUBMIT LISTS

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MBABANE – Once again, the year 2020 will start off on a struggle for primary schools in the country as the FPE grants will not be released any time soon.

This is because most schools have not been able to meet the stipulated deadlines set by the Ministry of Education and Training. The deadline was for the submission of the lists of beneficiaries. Initially, school heads were supposed to submit the lists by December 13, 2019. The deadline was later shifted to December 20, 2019 but still there had been no progress.
In the past, the free primary education (FPE) grants were released before new year. There are over 600 primary schools in the country. Minister of Education and Training Lady Mabuza, in an interview, said she felt sabotaged by the head teachers by deliberately delaying the process of having the grants released on time and further shifting the blame on her. 

Submissions

Mabuza decried the late submissions, adding that such had been going on every year, yet there was no primary school head teacher who was not aware that when schools closed for the third term, all paperwork relating to FPE grants was supposed to have been submitted. She said this was to accommodate processing of the submitted documents as it also took time. According to the minister, she was frustrated by the whole procedure as well and had tried engaging the regional education officers (REOs) in the four regions to check whether the paperwork was on point.

“This is to avoid a situation where the documents take long and end up being rejected by the Treasury Department,” stated the minister. Mabuza said the delay in submissions would affect the release of the FPE grants to the various schools. According to Mabuza, she would then be blamed for the late release of the funds, yet in actual fact the delay was not caused by her. The minister said there were very few schools that had submitted and funds to be paid out were around E3 million. In an interview with Hhohho REO Thuli Langwenya, she confirmed to have received paperwork from some of the schools in the region. According to Langwenya, some schools had heeded the minister’s call to submit before the deadline, which was December 20, 2019.

Challenges

However, she said the documentation for those schools which submitted had been held up in her offices due to various challenges. She said in the past when the PINs (personal identity numbers) were not enforced and the ministry was paying through cheques, the payment system used to be faster. The REO said the PIN verification took most of their time. The REO said many schools in the Hhohho Region had submitted the pupils’ records, including those head teachers who retired last month. She said some of the challenges, however, included the network which had been down since last week Friday. As such, she said they had been unable to verify the documentation before presenting it to the Ministry of Education. “Since Friday, the network has been down and the service provider has been trying to restore it,” Langwenya stated.

Verification

She added that the verification process was taking them longer than expected. Langwenya said there was a need to verify all the submitted information by checking the correspondence of the PINs against the pupils’ names. Also, she said they needed to establish whether the pupils were emaSwati and the names should also be reflected in their birth certificates.
After checking all this information, Langwenya said they then corroborated how much grant the school was entitled to before submitting the paperwork to the head office for further processing.

Meanwhile, Lubombo REO Dzabulase Mthupha also corroborated with his colleague on the issue of the network. Mthupha said they were unable to verify most of the pupils’ PINs as their network was down and they were failing to capture any data. He said a majority of the head teachers had submitted, while some had been turned back for wrong PINs while others were missing. “This was also causing the delay as the grants cannot be processed if there is a query,” Mthupha said. He said it was however, not all the head teachers who had submitted the paperwork.

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