Teachers across Swaziland are reporting that schools are forced to close early because there is no food to feed children.
Zwelithini Mndzebele, General Secretary of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), told local media the union had a number of reports that some schools had broken early each day because of food shortages.
Mndzebele blamed government for being slow in paying school fees so principals could not buy supplementary food.
The Swazi Observer on Friday (3 February 2017) reported Mndzebele saying, ‘Some of the pupils come to school without having eaten anything and they rely on the feeding programme at school for food. They cannot stand the long hours on empty stomachs, hence the principals cut the days short so they can concentrate and be able to grasp something,’ he said.
Mndzebele added, ‘Imagine the impact the shortened classes will have in the long-term work, pupils will be behind schedule on school work and this will mean a bad ending.’
The Observer reported that the Ministry of Education and Training had said it handed out food last year and it should be available.
Mndzebele said there were no proper facilities to store food. ‘The ministry must understand that most of the store rooms in the schools lack ventilation. Imagine the state of the food that have been kept in those store rooms for almost two months.’
He said the government had not yet paid the money to support free primary education (PFE) so principals had nothing to buy supplementary food while waiting for government to deliver.
The Ministry of Education and Training delivered about 200kg of rice, and 300kg to 500kg of mealie-meal a month, plus beans depending on the size of the school. Mndzebele said this was usually not enough so school principals then used the FPE money to buy more food.
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