By Nonduduzo Kunene | 2019-07-10
AS primary school principals are lamenting about the unpaid Free Primary Education (FPE) grant, their high school colleagues are complaining about unpaid Orphaned Vulnerable Children (OVC) grants.
Eswatini Principals Association (EPA) President Welcome Mhlanga said they had engaged with the relevant authorities, but they only received the first instalment of the grant.
Mhlanga said it was worrisome as some schools have started their mock examination. Mhlanga said as principals, they are forced to dive into debts as they need money for the examinations and other school affairs.
He said money is not the issue that had engulfed schools, but also the freezing of recruitment.
He said the freezing of recruitments is one of the thorny issues that are troubling schools. He stated that over 60 per cent of schools in the country do not have enough teachers.
The shortage of teachers compromises the completion of the syllabus, as well as the quality of results that the country will produce.
“If these challenges are not solved on time, schools will collapse,” he said.
Further, he said there is a shortage of classrooms and furniture, of which they cannot afford to purchase furniture and construct classrooms, as schools are swimming in debts and overdrafts.
He added that the ministry of education has spectacular policies, as well as the minister of finance prepared a splendid budget for the education sector. However, when it comes to implementing the policies, the resources are inadequate or not at all.
Mhlanga pleaded that government should allow parents to support schools in terms of top up fees.
The limitation of a top up fees stalls a lot of the school functions.
“Ever since the introduction of FPE, schools have been performing badly financially,” he said.
Mhlanga said he believed if parents were allowed to support schools, the current situation could be changed for the better, as parents will not let schools die. Mhlanga said government is willing to see things happen but cannot prioritise and implement. He said during the budget speech, the minister of Finance talked about prioritising the education sector but it is in a mess.
There are policies in place but they are not implemented.
He said they only look good on paper, but not in reality or action.
Mhlanga siad schools are currently sinking in debts because of the unpaid FPE and OVC grants. The financial constraints in schools are stalling development.
“Whatever plans schools may have are compromised by the financial situation. When schools at the end of the year produce poor results, teachers are blamed yet they could not be effective without money to keep the school affairs floating,” he said.
Meanwhile, the director of Children’s Service at the deputy prime minister’s office said the office was working on paying the remaining balance of the OVC grants.
He pleaded for leniency with principals and assured them that they were working on easing the situation. He did not disclose if the money for paying the school fees was available, as the government is obtaining loan after loan.
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