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LOBAMBA – The increasing number of pupils who drop out in high school, who then turn to gangsterism, has given rise to a new organisation known as the Lobamba Constituency Dropout Student Fund.

The constituency team over the weekend launched the fund in order to enable concerned citizens, companies and organisations to lend a helping hand to the vulnerable children of the area, who are forced out of school due to lack of funds. Lobamba Constituency consists of five high and seven primary schools. A majority of parents from the constituency were employed at the local hotels, lodges and restaurants, which closed down during the COVID-19 era. Some parents are now employed by the local shops and construction companies, where they earn less than E3 000 per month.   

Speaking at the launch, Chairperson of the Fund Kadija Mohammed said the initiation of the fund was informed by the increasing number of pupils who drop out of school in the area. She said their study had pointed out that the increase in the number of pupils who drop out emanated from job losses during the COVID-19 era. She said the jobs losses resulted in some parents, most of whom were employed in the hotels, lodges and restaurants being unable to pay school fees for their childeren. She made an example that most of the parents, whose children had dropped out, were employed at the Royal Swazi Spar Hotel but suffered immensely when the establishment closed down. Mohammed said for pupils to be part of the fund, they would have to register at E25 each.

As part of their fundraising drive, she said they would be working with agents, who would be assigned to sell tickets to every homestead.  She said the tickets would be sold at E50 to adults and E25 to those below the age of 18. She added that after the collection, they would pay part of the school fees on behalf of the beneficiaries. She advised that pupils should communicate their predicament before they drop out of school. “We will be focusing on the high school dropouts, who are already on the streets. We have many children who are found on the streets during school learning hours. When engaged, they claim to be out of class due to lack of school fees,” she said. Asked if there was a link between the schools and the fund, Mohammed responded to the positive. She stated that they worked hand-in-hand with teachers from the local schools. She stated that for now, the fund had E5 000, which was contributed by City Knows Investments, which was represented by its Director Lindiwe Ndwandwe. In her brief remarks, Ndwandwe stated that the company had contributed the amount in response to the awareness raised by the inkhundla.


The area’s Indvuna Yenkhundla Bhekisisa Bhembe thanked the Lobamba Constituency Dropout Students Fund for taking the initiative after the inkhundla raised the awareness. Bhembe stated that the inkhundla raised the awareness after a series of interviews with the pupils who had dropped out and were found on the streets during learning hours. “Some of the dropouts have been recruited into a terror gang known as Iraq due to idleness. We are appealing to all people of Lobamba to support this initiative. Supporting the children’s education is the best way to remove them from the street and eliminating a criminal mind. Let us take the pupils who have dropped out back to class before they can become a threat to society,” Bhembe said.
He encouraged other tinkhundla to launch the dropout students fund in order to support the children’s education in the country.

Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education and Training Bhekithemba Gama said the ministry will never be against any initiative aimed at helping children. “It is a good initiative but I think it would have been proper for the constituency to register the pupils with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office as OVCs and pay the top up,” Gama said. Recently, this publication reported about a high number of pupils who had contemplated suicide after it became apparent that their parents could no longer pay for their fees.

Meanwhile, beneficiaries of the newly-launched dropout students fund have shared their stories. *Ntombi, who obtained a first class pass in Form III, shared that she almost dropped out of school after her previous school withheld her results due to owed fees. She stated that after learning through an SMS sent to MTN Eswatini that she obtained a first class pass, she proceeded to Mlalatini Development Centre, where she is currently doing Form IV.  “I applied for a sponsor, but I couldn’t get assistance. The sponsor advised that I should settle the remaining balance before they could assist me. I lost the sponsorship because my single parent (mother) could not afford to pay the remaining amount,” she said.

*Sethu, who was raised by a shebeen queen and a jobless father, shared that she dropped out when she was supposed to go to Form I in 2019. “I then got financial assistance from a non-governmental organisation known as Bantwana. They paid for my school fees until I reached Form III, where I obtained a second class pass. I then stayed at home until my mother raised E440 to take me to Mlalatini Development Centre, where I am currently doing Form V,” she said. She added that she joined the newly-launched fund just to motivate and encourage other pupils, especially girls, to hold on to their education.

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