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Let’s hope free education won’t compromise quality

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Let’s hope free education won’t compromise quality


Kindly allow me space in your widely read newspaper to air my views on the recent vusela exercise being undertaken by our education ministry on free primary education. Firstly, may I convey our gratitude or the ministryís efforts to relieve parents of the yearly financial burden, but letís hope it wonít compromise the quality of education.

Secondly, may I point out that after serving the above ministry for the past 28 years, 25 of which Iíve been heading schools, I learnt quite a number of things; one of which is the pace at which our ministry responds towards schools requirements.

We asked for furniture for four consecutive years, but it was received this year in the fifth year of request. Some schools were damaged by storms years back and reports about the destruction were done, but nothing came forth. It was left to the parents to repair the damage.

May I also point out that out of all the government ministries our education ministry is the only ministry, which over-taxes its employees (teachers) as well as the parents. For every supply to the schools the ministry demands the principals to provide transport, e.g. books, exercise books to name just a few. They are all delivered at the regional offices instead of setting dates of delivery and deliver them directly to the respective schools.

Discipline I wonder if our honourable ministerís speech on teachersí discipline is anything to go by when he says if any teacher impregnates a pupil then his principal will be in the same boiling soup of being disciplined. Maybe he meant that any wrong deeds by his own sons and daughters would also see him removed from his post. Principals have never condoned undisciplined teachers. We strongly condemn love affairs among scholars as well as teacher-pupils relationships.

But it must be noted that there are many factors leading to our failure in controlling the above problems. For example, teachers stay in rented flats. Can you control someone who stays away from you? We hope being bedroom guards would see principals earning an allowance for being a good guard. Our government all along has been complaining about large budgets spent on salaries due to the large numbers of government employees. Now our own ministry is making empty promises of taking care of schools needs and employees, like security, secretaries, groundsmen, maybe even drivers for some of the few schools with cars. Letís wait and see if that could be possible.

Our schools have no accommodation, most of them have an acute shortage of housing, and public transport in most places is not enough.

Problematic The policies of getting relief teachers are also problematic. In a school of 16 staff members you find that sometimes two members get either sick or maternity leave. The head of department can teach for both teachers and is expected to teach his own subjects. The ministry needs to swiftly assist on these issues. Some of our human resource persons do not replace the required personnel on time.

May I finally urge our leaders to see to it that free education is of good quality for our innocent young stars. We hope they do not intend to only empower private schools, and provide cheap labour for their own children who are not in our system. Being Swazi, I believe whoever dishes food for a family, his own children must be fed from the same bowl. If not then there is a problem.

Worried RM

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