Who would want to be a child in Swaziland?
Hardly a week goes by without some news of another atrocity committed against children. The latest reveals that teachers are having sex with their pupils. Last year 100 teachers were investigated on charges of having sex with pupils. That hundred only represents the cases that were reported and dealt with, there is every reason to suspect that many more children are being abused than this number suggests.
According to Muziwethu Mhlanga, Secretary General Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), one of the reasons teachers get away with child abuse is that parents, especially in rural areas, ‘sold’ their daughters in return for groceries from male teachers.
He told African Eye, ‘We have incidents where parents send their daughters to go and clean for a male teacher or tell him to bring his washing so that their daughter can wash for him, or even go to the extent of cleaning his house.’
He said poverty exacerbates the problem.
Mhlanga added, ‘There are a lot of things wrong in this country and we can't only accuse teachers of abusing school children. There are a lot of people in the country who grab young girls against their will to make them wives, while some take advantage of the fact that they are poor and promise to do everything for them (in return for sex).’
Mhlanga is quite right when he says that it is not only teachers who abuse children (sexually and physically).
I have written many times about the plight of Swazi children. They live appalling lives of deprivation and abuse. Here are some of the articles I have written. When you put them altogether they make a depressing picture of the life of the Swazi child.
One in three children is sexually abused. Click.
Four in ten children are so malnourished that their growth is stunted. Click.
Hunger and lack of medicine kill up to one Swazi child in seven before they reach the age of five. Click.
About 3 000 Swazi households are headed by children. Click.
Eight year olds scrap for food on streets of Mbabane. Click.
Two children have been jailed in Swaziland for being vagrants Click.
Police fire live bullets at schoolchildren protesting against their deputy principal. Click.
Twenty teachers lined up to thrash children in a sadistic corporal punishment ritual. Click.
Eighteen primary school children were whipped because they were eating their lunch from buckets. Click.
Children are subjected to whipping as punishment by Swazi law courts. Click.
A representative of an international aid agency working in Swaziland called for some Swazi children to be sterilised to stop them having children of their own. Click
Children get a raw deal in the Swazi Press, where in some cases the reporting of children does not uphold the rights of vulnerable children and the reporting of victimised children further victimises those children. Click