Ex-Minister calls for decentralization of UNESWA to address allowances dispute
Ex-Minister Dr Phineas Magagula
MANZINI :Dr Phineas Magagula, the former Minister of Education and Training said decentralization of the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) would help in addressing the impasse between government and students.
Speaking to this Swaziland News in an interview, the former Minister said having UNESWA in the four regions of the country would help in ensuring that students do not travel long distances and rent flats in Matsapha. He said UNESWA campuses should be built in the Hhohho region, Manzini, Shiselweni and Lubombo; these campus should have full time Lectures. “The decentralization of the UNESWA might help in reducing the costs incurred by students as they enroll in the University. This will further increase the number of students admitted into the University to enhance the education system. The comments of the former Minister comes at a time when the University was working towards launching the Digital Learning Centers that will be based in the four regions of the country.
“The issue of striking tertiary students has been ongoing for a very long time and I had the opportunity to analyze this very closely, for 11 years when I was the head of the William Pitcher College. These students have since turned their boycotts into an annual event and that is not good for the education system,” he said. Magagula further pointed out that during his tenure as a Minister they discovered that the academic year in the tertiary institutions was not aligned with the issuing out of the governmental budgets. “This worked against students from receiving their allowances on time. We had to change the academic year of the different institutions to be in line with government’s financial year to avoid frustrating these students” he said. He believed this would make sure that when students actually opened for their academic year, the government would have the budget to issue out allowances to the students. He said this would decrease the number of strikes and boycotts in the different tertiary institutions in the country. He further advised the current government that another way of preventing strikes would be to open honest dialogue from all parties directly involved in this matter.
“Whenever there are any changes proposed by the government that might affect the students, they should be informed. Let the government of Eswatini engage with the Student Representative Council (SRC) from the different tertiary institutions,” said the former Minister. The country has experienced a series of protests within the Universities after information emerged that students will be paid E800.00 ($53.00) monthly through Mobile Money. Speaking to this Swaziland News in an earlier interview, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security said it was very unfortunate that students were given wrong information that their allowances will be paid in monthly installments of E800.00 and clarified that the Ministry was addressing the matter. Mkhaliphi said as a government, they were not aware where the students got the figure - adding that this was a strategy to invite the public on the matter that was still under deliberations. “As a Ministry, we are aware that the allowances are not sufficient particularly for the students who are staying off-campus and we are working on that. It’s not true that they will receive E800.00 and we don’t know where they got that figure as the matter is being deliberated within the structures of the Ministry. However, students should exercise maturity as the country is facing financial challenges. We can have good strategies in their best interest on how to distribute these allowances but that would be determined by the government’s financial muscle,” he said.