AFRICA/SWAZILAND - Schools are closed for the orphans and the poor: the government does not pay fees

Friday, 16 September 2011

Mbabane (Agenzia Fides) - The vast majority of primary and secondary schools in Swaziland have not been able to start their school activities as the government has failed to solve the problem of the additional fees provided for the education of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) . In the African country, about 200 thousand children, that is to say one fifth of the population of 1.1 million people are orphans or are part of the category of the vulnerable. Furthermore, 26.1% of the population in Swaziland has HIV, the highest prevalence rate in the world. One out of four people aged between 15 and 49 is HIV positive and 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.
The Minister of Education said that the union of teachers, however, is not authorized to close schools and has invited the children to take lessons through the government radio. The government argues that non-payment of school fees for OVC is a "cash flow problem" and has assured that education and health service will be funded. The OVCs are innocent victims of this situation: the government had promised to pay their school fees, as required by the Constitution of the country. Now they are left to fend for themselves on the street: the school is important not only for education but also for socializing, especially because many OVC are head of the household. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 16/06/2011)