Swaziland students are preparing to take to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s policy on the awarding of scholarships.
The Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) is busy organising a campaign that will probably include a mass march on 7 February 2011.
A meeting of student representatives from across the kingdom met this month (January 2011) to discuss the quality of tertiary education in Swaziland and also the controversial scholarship policy that will mean some students have to pay tuition fees and personal allowances will be slashed.
According to a statement from the SNUS, sent to members of the SNUS Facebook group, the Swaziland Government ‘is covertly planning to implement the hoggish scholarship policy which the students openly rejected last year’. The government has rejected the student’s submissions and opinions on the proposed policy.
SNUS says, ‘We want to reaffirm our stand that any document or policy that seeks to reduce education to a commodity that can be bought and sold at the behest of the wealth will be met with the strongest resistance from the courageous students of Swaziland. We declare war against the government and the policy itself. We will surely be in the streets mobilizing and organizing all the people of Swaziland, the exploited working class, the unemployed youth, labor unions, high school children and pastors to help us bury this unjust document once and for all.’
SNUS also says there are serious problems with the quality of colleges in Swaziland. Some buildings are too old and not fit for purpose. There is also overcrowding at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), where some classes have to take place in tents that were originally erected as temporary examination halls.
SNUS says, ‘In the Southern Africa Nazarene University, the girl’s hostels [built in 1939 for missionaries] are inhuman as they are actually falling apart.’ There are also issues about the quality of libraries in tertiary institutions in Swaziland.
SNUS also says colleges are being turned into ‘farms’, where ‘the students have been intimidated not to question anything said or done by the administration. Those brave students who have justly done so, have been either hauled before the disciplinary committees or systematically failed’.
Students will have a mass meeting on 5 February 2011 to plan future action, with 7 February set aside as a possible day of mass action.