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MANZINI - A group of concerned parents want the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) closed for at least two years.

In fact, the parents have expressed their doubt on the quality of education provided by the university, following a litany of challenges it faced that led to its closure. The parents’ prayers are for the solution to UNESWA’s challenges that have been eroding the institution, recently resulting in its closure. The stakeholders of the university have decried the avalanche of challenges; from finances, structures and safety, leading to sporadic protests by both students and employees alike. The concern by the parents on the compromise of the quality of education started about a fortnight ago, when employees of the university under the Association of Lecturers, Academic and Administrative Personnel (ALAAP) downed tools over award performances (notching).


The strike by the employees was initiated after a deadlock was reached on the dispute between UNESWA and its employees, where a certificate of unresolved dispute was issued in February this year. The university had been taken to the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) following grievances by employees on the issue of salary adjustments. Management had offered employees three per cent cost-of-living adjustment (CoLA) but refused to allow the staff to notch, yet all along, each CoLA award came with notching. The employees have not been receiving their notching since 2018, due to that the university had declared that there was a shortage of funds. The legal strike by the employees resulted in the closure of the university last Thursday, and it was declared that there would be no teaching and learning for full-time and part-time students. The university stated that the closure was effected due to the interest of safety and security of staff and students.


Worth noting is that UNESWA is ranked 107th in the top 200 universities in Africa 2023 by the Uni Rank. It follows the University of Malawi, which is number 106, while it is followed by the University of Mohamed Khider de Briskra in Algeria. Meanwhile, this has not been taken lightly by a group of concerned parents, some of whom suggested that the university should shut down for two or three years, while a way forward was being mapped on the management of the institution. According to the concerned parents, the quality of education of the university was no longer at par with what it originally was since its inception in 1982. The parents were of the view that the institution was no longer living up to its slogan of being the ‘University of Choice in Africa.’

A parent shared with this publication that what was happening in the university was appalling and unbelievable. “As a parent, I am appalled by the events that are happening, where we see lecturers downing tools. It is beyond my comprehension. What example are they setting for the children?” the concerned parent questioned. He was of the notion that what was wrong in the employees’ strike was that they were ‘demanding’ to get their award performances. The parent suggested that what needed to be done was for the employees to sit down to take the annual report on the financial status of the university, to understand its challenges. “While we were growing up, there was something called pro patria mori, which means one has to die for his or her fatherland. It means there are certain things that I have got to sacrifice for the sake of my country. But what is happening now is concerning, employees no longer have the best interest of students at heart. Oh cry the beloved country,” lamented the parent.

He reiterated that what was happening in the university was disappointing. The parent disclosed that he studied Communications Engineering in the very same university and the quality of education was top notch. However, according to the parent, the only description he had now was that it was poor. The parent questioned what the lecturers were imparting to the younger generation of students who were supposed to be learning from them. Another parent was of the view that the university must shut down for a period of two or more years. He recommended that the closure should come with retrenchments, so that the university would return to employing lecturers on contractual basis.


“This will prevent issues where employees will find themselves outside engaging in strikes when students should be learning. There would be a calibre of employees who know what they come to work for,” said the parent. Another parent asked when the university would reopen. He expressed concern on the number of days which were passing by while students were losing a great deal of time away from class. “Bayocedza nini labantfwana bo? We are breeding another type of generation which is hell-bent on strikes and spending more time away from books, and this is really concerning to say the least,” the parent stated. He wished that he could be able to provide tuition fees for a university which was outside of the country, as he could no longer boast about the education provided at UNESWA. The parent suggested that even local tertiary institutions that were once looked down upon were better off compared to the main university.

In the same breath, another parent observed that it was shocking to see that learned employees with Degrees and PhDs were on strike. He said this was a result of a poor system, which was not prioritising the education system in the country. The parent also said he was disheartened for students who were self-sponsored as their hard-earned cash was being wasted. She suggested that the university be sold to people who could better manage the institution.


UNESWA Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane said closing the university may not solve the national challenge, supply of trained personnel in specific disciplines annually. “The training of manpower should not be interrupted. Otherwise, it would take the country 50 years backward. We need those skills in large numbers yearly. The strike action is caused by an unresolved dispute between the employees and the employer, the university,” he explained. Dr Simelane added that terms of employment may change but if the root cause was not solved, change of contract might help. He added that the university provided quality education. The registrar mentioned that quality measurement tools may be very difficult to attain, depending on what exactly one wanted to measure and for what purpose. “If it is about passing from one level of study to another in a particular programme, UNESWA’s product might surprise you. Our graduates still do well regionally and globally at post-graduate level in terms of performance in class,” the registrar alluded. He also pointed out that the university trained students academically, which according to him, was their mandate.

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