SwaziCompanions of Iowa

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tuesday, 23February

Today we visited St Francis Primary and Secondary Schools in Mbabane – across the street (and up the “hill” from the Thokoza Centre).  This follows our visits last week to two more rural schools: St. Andrew’s-Malkerns, and Usuthu Mission.  There are lots of things to get one’s head around.  The idea that an “Anglican school” is also a “public school” is difficult enough coming from a system where the two terms would be incompatible.  However, “Anglican school” means that the church organizes the school, hires the teachers, and includes some religious education in the curriculum.  The teachers must still be certified by the government; they are paid with government funds; food for school lunches is provided by the government (maize,rice and beans – but deliveries are not always on time); buildings are often started with local work and finished with funds from government grants.  Hence, they are “public schools”.  A “private school” is one with enough money to not need any of those government funds.  (Disclaimer:  this is my current sense of affairs; subject to change as we continue to listen.)
St.Francis Primary Teachers
What we have seen as the very positive, forward-looking Millenium Development Goals are not necessarily seen the same way here.  We heard twice today that Swaziland “had to” accept free primary education by 2015, but that the country was not ready for that.  When parents were paying fees, they would also be more likely to help build new classrooms, teacher residences, etc.  Schools are required to take many more students without funding for new facilities to house the students, or to hire additional teachers.  And they cannot assess parents for “extras”.  That presents a dilemma that we will continue to hear about as we visit the remaining Anglican schools this next month.  It is certainly a plus to know that children are in school (which has not always been the case especially in rural areas), but to have one teacher and 67 students in a primary classroom built to accommodate up to 40 is not an unequivocally positive step forward.

I am sure that we will hear more on Wednesday when we attend the gathering of headmasters/principals of the Anglican Schools gathering at the Thokoza Centre.

Archdeacon Bheki Magongo heads the Diocesan Education Committee (essentially makes him Superintendent/School Board President of the Anglican Schools).  He would like us to think about ways of helping to build teacher housing at some of the schools.  It isn’t clear to us that there is space to do that at St. Francis, but certainly it would be possible at some school sites.  It is also clear that the schools need to find an additional stream of income—and ways to keep parents involved that will be deemed appropriate by schools, church and government.  It would appear that having more children in school – and being fed at school – decreases the demand at some of the Neighborhood Care Points.  However, the Care Point that we visited at Ekukhanyeni prepares enough food to also feed primary age children after school because the food at school “is not sufficient”.  Lots to sort out.

On another note: on Monday we had tea with the Rev. Dalcy Dlamini.  She was in Iowa for the 2006 Diocesan Convention (30 year celebration of the ordination of women), having just completed her seminary education.  After tea she took us to their farm where we also met their daughter, Lindo.  She sent us home with lots of ripe bananas, two heads of fresh-picked lettuce, some peppers, and a nearly-ripe paw paw (papaya).  Our refrigerator is too small to accommodate all of that so we shared some with the young woman who keeps us supplied with water, clean laundry, clean floors, etc.  This afternoon she and Gloria (the landlady) appeared with a plate of goodies.  Life is challenging; life is Good.
Dalcy, Mary Jane, Lindo



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