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MBABANE – “I am just a banker and will need all the assistance.”

The above statement was made by the newly-appointed Minister of Education and Training, Owen Nxumalo, during a meeting with the ministry’s employees yesterday. Nxumalo asked to be oriented in the education sector as he did not have a professional understanding of same. He stated that he had worked in the banking sector for a period exceeding  25 years and was an accountant by profession. The minister said he best understood the banking sector, as he was skilled in it until he assumed a managerial position and sat in the executive committee (EXCO). “If you have been trained in a skill, you have an understanding of it and know exactly what you are doing.” The minister said he would seek the Director of Education, Dr Ntombenhle Dlamini, to orient him about the ministry.

Nxumalo promised to respect the employees as professionals, adding that he would also seek advice whenever there was a need. “Even at Cabinet level, I will come with the professional expertise on whatever matter.” He pleaded with the employees to be supportive and team players. The minister said he had private sector experience as he worked there and encouraged the staff to work hard and get appraisals in order to get promotions based on hard work. “I promise that I will not offer any favours for staff members, but will treat people the same.”
Nxumalo said he was happy that the employees mentioned the issue of Circular Number 3, 2013, which would allow for vacant posts to be filled in the ministry, adding that guidelines covering issues of skills audit would be addressed. This, he said, would help evaluate if one qualified to be employed in a specific post. “I will not be recognising people because of relations but on merit,” the minister said.

Furthermore, he called for the rooting out of corruption at all levels in the country. Nxumalo stated that he would also be alert that he did not fall into the corruption trap. He said he was hoping to work collectively with all employees under the ministry. The minister mentioned that Cabinet, in the past, worked collectively and discouraged ministers to make statements without their knowledge. “We will discuss issues and agree on the direction to be taken.” Nxumalo said whenever they failed, it should not be because of working in silos. The minister added that the ministry needed to perform well in order for him to have another chance to serve the ministry, adding that other former ministers were not able to come back due to underperformance.

Nxumalo mentioned that he was a good listener and would visit all the stations and find out their challenges and write them down, with the assistance of the director of education. “We will then give feedback on the challenges and where we are in terms of progress.” He said they needed to push hard for the budget and mentioned the gaps the ministry faced. Nxumalo said he had mentioned earlier on the delays in the free primary education (FPE) funding, adding that it was important that schools were supported with all the necessary tools in order for them to perform. He also encouraged the employees to take the strategic and annual plans as their bibles when working. He said the Education Ministry was critical, hence as a Christian, he urged all to pray because the most important thing was delivering quality education in rural areas. Nxumalo said a number of issues touching on the ministry were raised during Sibaya, including the standardisation of school fees, which he said needed to be looked into and reports be compiled.

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