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MBABANE – Buying school uniform and paying school fees remains a high mountain to climb for over 500 support staff employed at schools around the country.

Phumelele Zulu of the Swaziland Union in Learning and Allied Institutions (SULAI) said there were over 860 members of the union and 60 per cent of them, which is about 516, were owed salaries dating back to October last year. An average salary for a support staff employee is E2 000 and this means the over 500 employees are owed over E5 million, considering that their salaries are likely to be paid in February and would be back-paid from October. With schools set to open towards the end of the current month, schools’ support staff members are hoping for God’s intervention in the form of a miracle to have their salaries paid before classes resume so that they can buy uniforms and pay school fees for their children.


Since the adoption of the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme back in 2009, government, with the assistance of the European Union (EU), have been funding primary eduacation, as parents do not have to pay a cent for the education of their children. The implementation of the programme has been cited as the source of the challenges faced by the support staff whose salaries have been coming in irregular patterns over the years. She said when people were buying items for Christmas to enjoy with their families; these employees had a gloomy one as they had not received their salaries. Zulu said this was due to government’s failure to release the FPE and the orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) grants to schools on time, which then compromised some initiatives at schools, including the paying of salaries to support staff. “This is a very serious matter which started after the introduction of the FPE grants in 2009.

The situation, particularly in rural schools, is worse as infrastructure is dilapidated and needs serious upgrading. Paint on the walls is peeling off and windows are broken. “We have been raising these issues with the Ministry of Education and Training and urging them to at least find a strategy that would see the grants being released on time to schools but to this day, nothing has changed,” she said. Zulu said they made recommendations to government to do a study that would determine the total number of support staff employed in all the schools around the country and also determine if there were unnecessary personnel employed to engage in an exercise of purging if there were any. This emanated from an outcry from the ministry that schools had employed a high number of support staff and the budget for same was high. Zulu said this was going to help government come up with a standard maximum figure for each school not to exceed when hiring the support staff.


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