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Order and Chaos as Schools Fully Open

Eswatini Daily News
12 October 2021

Two extremes were witnessed yesterday as schools adjust to the new normal. Eswatini has over 830 schools. While over 785 public and private schools both primary and secondary returned to school peacefully yesterday, marking the first day of schools being fully open. It was the opposite in about 45 schools where learners boycotted classes, stoned cars and burned school facilities.

The boycotting of schools and display of violence by pupils sparked mixed reactions from Emaswati. Some social media users encouraged the boycotting of classes saying students must not return to class until the country receives democracy and the arrested MPs are released from prison. They encouraged the children to use all means to prolong the unrest. One commentator said “bring the country to a standstill, this must continue, no turning back.” Another user said “Government should close all schools with immediate effect.”

A majority of Emaswati on the other hand were of the strong view that it is wrong and immoral to use children as weapons in the ongoing political battle. They said it is cowardice to use young and impressionable children as pawns in the fight for democracy. Children learn through observing and modeling which then guides their own behavior pattern. These children that are being taught to use protest and violence as a means of communication are learning a new culture of outrage and extreme violence as a new language of expression, “sitotisola kusasa” (we will regret tomorrow). “In a game of chess, pawns are on the frontline of the game. They are used and sacrificed to forge a path so the more powerful pieces can succeed undetected.”

Some parents and guardians have been invited to the affected school’s for meetings to map the way forward. Panic and frustrations are at a high level at the affected schools because parents are concerned about the safety of their children at school. Parents are more concerned that their children are forced to riot by teachers and other students and if they refuse they are threatened with violence. Parents are also worried about the future of their kids saying “they have already lost two years of school, what will become of their future?” Students are being injured while protesting and running away and some are at risk of arrest and living with a criminal record for life on a subject matter they don’t have full comprehension of.

A member of one political party who spoke to us said, “while freedom of expression is our constitutional right, it is totally wrong to place children, even worse, primary school children, at the front of these protests as mascots and political props for a few individuals to gain mileage and financial incentives. It is no secret that there is infighting between us as political formations. At the centre of the fight is power and money. A few individuals are cashing in on the unrest, while the rest get nothing. Some of us are against violence, burning of structures and pushing a financially motivated agenda for political reforms. All we are interested in is achieving political reforms in the country for our benefit as Emaswati not other external powers. As we fight for democracy, let’s remember that good quality education is one of the building blocks for a strong country and economy.”

A Facebook user said “nyalo nifuca labantfwana embili nabagalimala tobese nitsi maphoyisa anjan njan…’ (you are now pushing children in front. Should they get injured you will blame the police). Another user said “Why don’t you stay home nine nibadzala (you adults) instead of forcing the children to skip school after 2 years of disrupted education already? Why don’t you guys boycott work ningaholi (and not get paid)? Why must the children take the brunt? Ningcolile nine (you are filthy). Quit your jobs and let the country fail manifuna (if you wish) but leave our children out of it. Sies ningcolile (you are filthy rotten).”

A parent at one of the schools in Manzini said “Government made a good decision to open schools fully. Schools must not be closed on account of a few rioting schools. The teachers, parents and school committees must resolve the issues at the affected schools. Our children are happy back at school.”

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