Swaziland - Effective Delivery of Public Education Services

Since independence in 1968, Swaziland has grappled with the same challenges in delivering effective education services, including, but not limited to: education access; increasing failure and dropout rates; a lack of qualified teachers; a lack of curriculum innovation; and slow responses to education and training changes in regional and international arenas. These challenges have thus frustrated the development and innovativeness of the education sector.

Author

June 22nd, 2013

Since independence in 1968, Swaziland has grappled with the same challenges in delivering effective education services, including, but not limited to: education access; increasing failure and dropout rates; a lack of qualified teachers; a lack of curriculum innovation; and slow responses to education and training changes in regional and international arenas. These challenges have thus frustrated the development and innovativeness of the education sector.

In 2005, Swaziland adopted a national Constitution that committed government to providing free primary education (FPE) three years after 2006, with implementation beginning in 2009. Civil society organisations had to pressurise the government for change, and, eventually, a protracted court case between the Swaziland National Ex-Miners’ Association (SNEMA) and the government led to a court order that compelled government to roll out FPE in 2010. FPE has been implemented in a phased manner, starting in Grades 1 and 2 in 2010 and then moving to Grade 3 in 2011 and Grade 4 in 2012.

One major weakness of the Constitution, however, is that it does not make education compulsory as per the requirements of article 28(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires that all state parties ‘make primary education compulsory and available free for all’. Hence, at the moment, the ten-year basic education programme is neither free nor compulsory, as the government has not gone beyond primary school in offering basic, free and compulsory education.

Since the launch of FPE, children who may have been previously excluded from education have been able to enrol and attend school; which is a right of all children regardless of background. However, FPE comes with its own challenges, such as limited infrastructure, inadequate learning facilities, and questions as to the sustainability of both FPE and Education for All (EFA). While primary-school enrolment rates stood at 93.4% in 2010, Swaziland is still far from universal completion of the ten-year basic education cycle. Currently, an adult Swazi receives 7.5 years of schooling on average. Although there is nearly universal access to Grade 1, the grade survival rate is very low. The primary-school completion rate in Swaziland is just over 60%, which is lower than in many neighbouring countries such as Botswana (87%), Zimbabwe (81%) and Zambia (72%).

Repetition rates have also been consistently high, resulting in learners who lose motivation and eventually drop out of school. The high cost of education has further contributed to school dropout. In addition, poorly paid teachers and unqualified teachers, particularly at primary school, have aggravated the situation of poor education quality, and the progression of girls to higher levels of schooling has not been impressive.

The quality of education has been an increasing cause for concern, particularly in the past two decades. The issue of school fees has overshadowed the quality of education. Formal learning takes place at school, but analytical learning is discouraged because success for both individual teachers and schools is measured in terms of the numbers of examination passes. An alarming 74% and 88% of children of the appropriate age are not enrolled in junior and senior education respectively. Access to technical and vocational education and training and skills development and university education is even worse, since secondary education is the only pathway by means of which children can move to higher levels of education. The pyramid pattern of enrolments as one transcends from primary to secondary and eventually higher education levels continues to be one of the most difficult challenges facing the sector and the country at large. In addition, the limited scholarships for tertiary education provide another grave challenge to access at this level.

Important achievements have, however, been recorded with regard to literacy and numeracy and in respect of education policy development, but implementation of such policy has had limited success. The education budget’s share of the national budget was maintained at above 20% from 2003 to 2005, fell in 2006, recovered briefly in 2010 and fell again in 2011 and 2012. Yet education has remained the highest cost in almost all household budgets, particularly low income households.

The government has been subsidising primary education since 2002 through textbooks, stationery, grants for orphans and vulnerable children, and FPE (from 2010). All these investments in education have not made a significant impact in reducing the burden on families. Many households are constrained by unreasonable top-up fees that are not regulated by any legislation. Parents also have to purchase learning materials and school uniforms. Keeping learners in school is still a challenge for poor households.

Civil society has been almost absent from decision-making in the education sector, as reflected by its weak participation in policy development, curriculum development, education budgeting and expenditure management, and as an effective voice among the external oversight mechanisms.

This report on Effective Delivery of Public Education Services by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) and OSISA raises issues for debate and action in areas of governance in the education sector that have a direct bearing on the effective delivery of education services. It looks at: compliance with national and international legal frameworks; information collection, publication and management; planning, monitoring and evaluation; budgeting and expenditure management; human resource management; external oversight mechanisms; and donor interventions in the education sector.

And makes the following recommendations:

International and national legal framework

  • Swaziland has to comply with the reporting requirements of international treaties. The delays in reporting are indicative of non-compliance and a lack of commitment by the country.
  • There is a need to include a resource plan to accompany the implementation of the Education Sector Strategic Plan. A plan without a financing strategy runs the risk of not being implemented.
  • There should be a clear definition of the age of a child in the law to eliminate the present confusion.
  • A law making it obligatory for children of school-going age to enrol for FPE needs to be promulgated. The present policy does not carry enough legal weight to compel parents to send their children to school.
  • Though FPE is being rolled out in phases, it is imperative that the programme be fully implemented as soon as possible.

Information collection, publication and management

  • An independent budget is needed for the EMIS in order to implement its mandate efficiently and produce reliable data.
  • Capacitate personnel at the EMIS with the appropriate skills and provide adequate incentives for retention purposes.
  • Decentralise the EMIS office to operate effectively from the regions so as to improve the efficiency of data collection by the regional education officers (REOs).
  • Introduce independent audits to verify data reliability and possibly eliminate data gaps in the EMIS.
  • Private schools should be legally bound to submit statistical data for the EMIS, since government has minimal access to, and control over, them.
  • The school inspection system should be capacitated with transport in order that it can carry out its mandate effectively. Currently, more effort goes to dealing with crisis management.

Strategic planning

  • There should be a better link between the objectives of the Education Sector Strategic Plan and EFA goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) so as to allow for the measurement of objectives and for working towards achievement, and to enable reporting.
  • A dissemination plan needs to be added to all policies and plans, and this dissemination plan must include the media as a disseminating agency.
  • A monitoring and evaluation section is required in respect of the Education Sector Strategic Plan in order to better inform plan review.

Budgeting and financial management

  • Increase stakeholder participation, by way of broader consultation, in the pre-budget planning phase and before the approval of estimates by the budget team.
  • Strengthen the In-service Training Department’s orientation of head teachers by collaborating with the Institute for Development Management on matters of professional management training.
  • The quarterly financial report to Parliament by the Minister of Education should be made available for public consumption and feedback.

Human resource management

  • Expedite the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution to ensure that the TSC becomes an independent and impartial body.
  • Include upgrading courses at in-service training level in collaboration with teacher training institutions, and build the capacity of the In-service Training Department so that it is more relevant to teachers’ training needs.
  • Continue the review of salaries and terms and conditions of employment so as to retain teachers in the profession.
  • Strictly enforce codes of ethics and conduct, which have been adequately stated by the TSC and SNAT.Urgently complete the development of the NQF.

External oversight mechanisms

  • Build the capacity of civil society so that it can effectively execute the task of external oversight mechanism.
  • To ensure effective school management, school committee chairpersons should have, as the minimum qualification, a Junior Certificate.
  • The Parliamentary Education Portfolio Committee should interact more with the public before passing education legislation.
  • Institute an independent investigation into the work done by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
  • Create an independent, supreme audit body to audit all government ministries and subsidiaries.

Development assistance

  • Information on resource funding by donor organisations should be made public through the media and the government website to encourage government accountability and civil society monitoring of public funds.
  • Donors need to support civil society organisations to play their oversight role effectively and promote good governance in the education sector.

Contacts

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  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099