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GOVT: NO FPE, OVC FUNDING FOR ABSENT PUPILS

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MBABANE – Government will release the orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) and free primary education (FPE) funds only for learners who are in school.

This was said by Minister of Education and Training Lady Mabuza at the height of the ongoing protests in schools. The protests saw a large number of schools being closed. Some closed for safety reasons as the head teachers feared that protesting pupils would vandalise the schools. Mabuza appreciated schools for heeding the ministry’s call to reopen on Monday, especially those that continued to run smoothly in this chaotic situation.

She encouraged the schools to keep looking for ways to continue teaching and learning, and helping those pupils who were already writing their exams. The minister warned teachers who incited pupils to engage in protests to desist from such behaviour. She said it was not helping the children but destroying their future. “Teachers who are found to be party to the ongoing protests will face disciplinary action,” said the minister.  

Protests

She said parents who had children in schools that were functional were requested to support the schools by talking to their children about the situation at hand, and encourage them to resist the temptation and pressure to join the protests. Similarly, parents of learners whose schools were closed were also encouraged to engage them on what was happening, stressing the importance of education in their lives. Mabuza said children needed to be guided on acceptable behaviour, particularly during times like these.

She further invited schools that were closed to a meeting today at Prince Mfanyana Hall in Manzini. She said each school should be represented by the head teacher, the chairperson of the school committee and the school’s manager or grantee. The meeting starts at 10am. The minister said she was aware that some schools had to be closed because teachers feared for the safety of the pupils. She said for those pupils not to be affected in the process of receiving the OVC and FPE funds, the schools will have to recall the learners to school. She emphasised that government will only pay for pupils in class.

“Longekho umbhadalele lani?” said the minster in vernacular. When asked what could be the possible solution to the current situation, the minister said, it was a pity that some of the demands by the pupils were beyond her ministry’s control. She said some pupils were demanding democracy, which was not in the ambit of her ministry. She said some were demanding the release of the incarcerated Members of Parliament (MPs), and that also was above the ministry’s control.

On the other hand, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku made it clear that government would not afford pupil a second chance if they missed out on the examinations due to the ongoing protests. Masuku said government could only lenient to pupils who might miss the examinations due to illnesses or extreme circumstances, not protests. This, he said, was because spaces would be limited for new intake in the next academic year.

Speaking on national radio yesterday morning, Masuku said government had put all measures in place to ensure that pupils were prepared for the examinations after losing so much time due to COVID-19. Worth noting is that government, through advice from the Ministry of Health, opened all classes as of last Monday on a full-time basis. This was exactly three months after government closed schools due to escalating cases of new COVID-19 infections. However, 82 schools had closed after some pupils engaged in protests as of Monday. More schools were compelled to suspend classes and send pupils home for safety reasons after some pupils from surrounding schools disrupted lessons.  

Learning

The DPM said it was disturbing that learning institutions were no longer used for their intended purpose, as some people allowed themselves to be used by certain individuals who were pushing their agendas. Noted was that some pupils in some schools demanded the release of the two MPs who were arrested and charged for contravening the Suppression of Terrorism Act amid the political unrest in the country. The incarcerated legislators are Hosea MP Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Ngwempisi MP Mthandeni Dube.

However, government and some parents strongly believe that the call for the release of the arrested MPs by pupils is beyond their jurisdiction. Masuku urged pupils not to be used by those who wanted to lure them into interfering in issues beyond their jurisdiction. He said pupils should understand that interfering in issues beyond their jurisdiction might impact negatively on their future. He urged pupils to concentrate on their studies as opposed to allowing themselves to be used by those who wanted to push their agendas.

Responsibilities

“I want to believe that pupils, parents and teachers have different responsibilities. It would be wise  for them to stick to the responsibilities assigned to them,” Masuku said. He made an example of some of the demands embodied in the petitions that circulated in some schools, stating that one was failing to understand how they came about. “We have learnt that some pupils consider braiding hair extensions and wearing of miniskirts as their right. In as much as it could be their right, we are saying they should not use it to disturb classes. No one is against their rights but they should consider doing it after finishing school. What people need to understand is that they should not infringe on other people’s rights while exercising their rights,” he said.

Masuku also mentioned that government had received reports to the effect that some parents had joined hands in protecting schools amid the ongoing protests across the country. He said government also received reports that some pupils were refusing to be used by those who wanted to destroy their future by luring them into joining the protests. Masuku said government commended the parents and the pupils who took the bold step and stood their ground. The politician appealed to more parents and pupils to follow suit.

He also urged church leaders and community leaders to join hands in the fight against violence in schools. Interviewed church leaders concurred with Masuku. However, some clergymen were reluctant to comment in fear of being misinterpretated. The men of God stated that they feared being viewed as taking sides regarding the ongoing political situation in the country. Reverend Johannes Mazibuko said as pastors, their belief relied on integrity.

Principled

He said integrity required that all people should be principled. Mazibuko said being principled required that there were things that one should not do. He said Masuku was in order as church leaders also wanted educated people in the future. He said without education, people became an unwise generation, which was difficult to govern. Mazibuko stated that uneducated people ended up being slaves as they did not qualify for good paying jobs. “It is a big and very important campaign to take children to school. As earlier said, pastors advocate for justice for both rulers and those being ruled,” he said.

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