Education crisis: Government responds to University students’ concerns
University students delivering a petition
MANZINI :Thulani Mkhaliphi, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has appealed for calm among University students as the government works on a framework on how their allowances will be distributed.
The country has experienced 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 interview, the PS 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 government financial muscle,” he said. The Principal Secretary said they were not being pressured by the protests to address the matter saying it was an ongoing process that was pre-maturely leaked to the public domain with wrong information. “What should be understood here is that; it is in our best interest to make sure that the product we are funding as a Ministry is quality at the end and we will explore all possible measures to make sure this matter is addressed. It’s true, off-campus students have a lot of expenses, like, rent, food, travel costs, etc., they cannot sustain themselves with the little money they receive. We also discovered that these off-campus students are paid with an on-campus scale and that made their lives very difficult. But despite that, I maintain that we are not aware of the E800.00 per month, that is wrong information and the true position of government in this matter is that we are working on a payment method that would be in the best interest of the students” said the PS.
But the PS appealed to the University students to exercise maturity and understand the situation in the country in the event government approves a scale and method that would not meet their expectations, however, he maintained that it would be in the best interest of the education system. When reached for comments, Education Minister Lady-Howard Mabuza advised this publication to contact the Minister of Labour and Social Security Makhosi Vilakati, saying his Ministry was responsible for scholarship matters. “The protests are affecting us as a Ministry of Education and we are concerned about the quality of education, however, we are not responsible for scholarship matters, they are handled by the Ministry of Labour” Reached for comments, Makhosi Vilakati, the Minister of Labour and Social Security disputed the allegations that University students will be paid E800.00 monthly as an allowance, he said the money was more than that figure. However, the Minister advised this publication to contact the Principal Secretary and get a true position regarding this matter.
”It’s not true that the students will be paid that amount, it is more than that, please contact the Principal Secretary to get details of the matter,” he said. But Swaziland National Union of Student’s (SNUS) President Mlamuli Gumedze when speaking to this Swaziland News alleged that government was working on a payment strategy that would benefit Eswatini Mobile and MTN than the students. He said students previously received their allowances through bank accounts that charged E60.00 ($4.00) once-off payment but now mobile money will come with different charges. “The monthly allowances will be more beneficial to Eswatini Mobile and Eswatini MTN than it will be for the students,” he said. UNESWA Students Representative Council (SRC) President Sakhile Ndzimandze, maintained that government was working on a payment method that would see students receiving the said amount per month. Speaking to this publication, the SRC President said as students, they were never contacted on the new payment system saying the proposed figure was an insult to them. “Those staying within the campus will receive E400.00 per month and with this money we are expected to buy toiletry and other necessitates, ” he added. Reached for comments, Ernest Magongo, the Director of Pro-Learning Private School said the country was in a serious education crisis and advised that all stakeholders should come together and find solutions to this problem. “The challenges in the education sector are huge and they cannot be addressed by one person, all stakeholders should come to together and find solutions,” he said.