The primary mandate of the Ministry of Education and Training is to provide access to relevant quality education at all levels to all Swazi citizens; taking into account all issues of efficacy, equity and special needs. Realizing that education is the foundation and the main pillar of economic and social development and being cognisant of its core mandate, the Ministry of Education and Training continues to commit itself to providing accessible, affordable and relevant education of the highest quality. The Ministry believes that that by being responsive to its core business, its contribution to the achievement of the country’s long-term vision of ensuring that Swaziland is amongst the top 10% of the medium human development group of countries founded on sustainable economic development, social justice and political stability, as articulated in the country’s National Development Strategy (NDS) Vision 2022, will be realised.
The Ministry’s commitment to contribute positively to the attainment of the country’s vision is strategically and succinctly expressed in its mission statement, which reads as: ‘To provide relevant, quality and affordable education and training opportunities for the entire populace of the Kingdom of Swaziland in order to develop all positive aspects of life for self-reliance, social and economic development and global competitiveness’.
The Ministry’s vision amply expresses its demonstration of a reinvigorated strength and determination in developing policies, strategies and programmes aimed at ensuring that the rights of the child are respected and that commitments made at international, regional and national levels are duly observed. At the centre of its vision, which reads, ‘Attainment of equality in educational opportunity for all pupils of school going age and adults irrespective of their socio economic background, with the ultimate goal of enhancing their productive capacity, thus improving the quality of their lives’, lies the quest and passion to reduce socio-economic inequalities, improve productivity and the overall quality of the life of the people of Swaziland.
1. Overview of the Ministry’s Activities
Recognizing the key role of education in economic and social development, the country has made remarkable undertakings towards providing quality education to all its citizens at all levels through formal and non-formal approaches. It has intensified its efforts in the implementation of equity and competitiveness driven reforms. At primary / basic school level, the Ministry’s objective is expansion of participation, ensuring that all pupils, irrespective of their social or economic circumstances have access to quality education. At secondary/ high school level, the aim is to provide diversified curricula and increase the availability of space in order to enable pupils to exploit all opportunities available and transcend to higher levels of education upon graduation. At post-secondary level, the objective is provision of training programmes that are in line with the socio- economic needs of the country.
In its endevour to extend educational opportunities to all, particularly at basic education level, the Ministry has made remarkable efforts to aligning itself with global, regional and national policy initiatives. At international level, efforts have been made to attain the Education for All (EFA) targets and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's). The aspirations of the EFA are covered by six goals namely: Expansion of Early Childhood Care and Development; Provision of free and compulsory primary education; Promotion of acquiring of life skills for adolescent and youth; Expansion of adult literacy; Elimination of gender disparities and enhancement of educational quality. The Millennium Development declaration sets eight specific goals (MDG’s) with specific targets. The fundamental aim of the Millennium declaration is eradication of extreme poverty and improvement of social welfare. MDGs place emphasis on attainment of Universal Primary Education and promotion of gender equality & empowerment of women. Regional and national policies also place emphasis on attainment of accessible quality education that is relevant and affordable to all.
2. Objectives of the Ministry
2.1 The provision of opportunities for all pupils of school-going age and adults to develop themselves in order to improve the quality of their own lives and the standard of living of their communities remains the central theme of the National Development Strategy (NDS).
2.2 The Ministry of Education shall offer a wide range of practical subjects so that more pupils would be made aware of their value. This would help change attitudes toward these subjects and develop the intellectual, moral, aesthetic, emotional, physical and practical capacities that are needed to shape and adapt to a fast-changing complex and uncertain socio-economic environment.
2.3 Education and training programmes shall engender a sense of civic mindedness and foster the skills that are necessary to participate effectively in the development of the country.
3. Ministry’s Portfolio Responsibilities
In carrying out its mandate, the Ministry has been charged with the under-listed portfolio responsibilities:
• Early Childhood Care and Development
• Primary Education
• Junior and Senior Secondary Education
• Technical and Vocational Education and Training
• University Education
• Teacher Training
• Special Education
• Adult and Non-formal Education
• Open and Distance Education
• In-service Education and Training
• Inspectorate and Advisory Services
• Quality Assurance and Accreditation
In carrying out these responsibilities the following crosscutting issues arise:
• Guidance and Psychological Services
• Curriculum Development
• Management Information Systems
• International Relations
4. Access to Education for All
The situation in the country is such that current access levels are exceedingly low and not responsive to the demand for skills required to sustain a knowledge driven economy founded upon sustainable economic development, social justice and political stability, as envisaged by the country’s National Development Strategy or Vision 2022. A quick assessment of the access rates in Swaziland reflect that about 16 percent of children of primary school-going age are not enrolled in primary education, an alarming 74 percent and 88 percent, of the appropriate age for junior and senior secondary education respectively, are not enrolled in these levels of education. The reflects an even worse situation for access levels for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Skills Development (TVETSD) and University Education, since secondary education is the only pathway through which our children can transcend to higher or college levels of education. The pyramid pattern of enrolments, as one transcends from primary to secondary and eventually higher education levels, continues to be one of the most damning challenges facing the sector and the country at large.
The Ministry is however is not taking this with folded arms. Despite Government and external funding limitations, the Ministry is implementing various interventions aimed at removing cost barriers at primary / basic level, secondary and higher education levels. It is hoped that removing such barriers will enable all children, even those from more humble socio-economic backgrounds to participate in education. To this end, the Ministry continues to subsidize education through the provision of ‘free’ textbooks to all pupils at primary school level, physical infrastructure, facilities, furniture and equipment, educational grants and subventions and the rolling-out of the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme. Proposals for the construction of additional secondary schools, through external grant funding are at advanced levels and the Ministry still continues to execute programmes aimed at providing infrastructure, teaching and learning materials, student grant support (i.e. for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children) and other educational amenities at secondary and higher education levels.
The tertiary education sector still remains the biggest and most serious challenge to the sector’s capacity to implement programmes that will reduce access gaps at general education levels due to their heavy reliance on Government funding. Their potential to raise private or external funding to sustain themselves has not been fully exploited and this has a negative impact on the sector’s policies for improving access rates.
5. Quality Education
The pursuit of improvement in education quality is one of the critical issues facing the Education and Training sector. The sector is aware that expanding access without due consideration of quality is futile. Economic and social gains associated with expanding access can only be realized if quality is given priority attention. The primary determinants of education quality are:
• teacher qualifications
• teaching strategy
• schools infrastructure
• learning materials and schools equipment/facilities
To address the issue of quality the Ministry continues to provide schools with qualified teachers and to mount in-service courses to keep serving teachers up to date with the latest approaches in teaching. Recognizing the increasing demand for primary school teachers, the Ministry has increased enrolments at Ngwane Teachers College (a primary school teachers’ college) to sizeable proportions. Furthermore, the Ministry has also introduced a Primary Teachers’ Diploma (PTD) at William Pitcher Teachers College in order to expedite the training of teachers at primary school level. The Ministry has also continued with the provision of learning materials (textbooks and stationery- primary schools), infrastructure, furniture and equipment to schools. In collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Ministry of Education continues to provide electricity to schools in the rural areas with the view to improve pupils’ learning outcomes and education relevance through the introduction of amongst others computer studies, and technical and vocational subjects.
The box libraries provided by the Support to Education and Training (SET) programme which is funded by the European Union (EU) to all primary schools in the country, will help improve children’s reading and writing skills and further improve the quality of teaching and learning at this level and at higher levels of education. The concept of School Development Plans and School Performance Reports, which is currently implemented in all schools under the Capitation Grant scheme, will be expanded to cover all schools so as to enhance management and performance levels in the schools.
The provision of schools infrastructure i.e. classrooms, computer laboratories and science laboratories is also biased in favor of rural schools. The rural-bias is driven by a clear underlying rationale: to improve educational outcomes of schools in rural areas and to achieve equity in the provision of quality education. The Ministry wants to make sure that schools that were previously disadvantaged and lacked the requisite infrastructure and facilities to attract qualified teachers are given more attention. This move will also ensure that all schools, regardless of their location, are fully utilized and that the country benefits from the current favourable averages in teacher-pupil ratios.
6. Provision of Relevant Education and Training Programmes
As the global economy rapidly changes and new technologies are introduced, more appropriately educated/trained human resources are required. The Government of Swaziland continues to recognize the importance of relevant education and skills in the transformation of the economy. To this end, efforts are being made to broaden the curricula at general school level and to re-align programmes at post-secondary level. The University of Swaziland has for the first time in many years reviewed the duration and relevance of some of its programmes. Students enrolling for year 1 at the institution have benefited from this reform, starting in August 2010. The Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) has also made giant strides towards transforming the institution into a university, a step that will see it offer degree courses for the first time in the history of the country.
In ensuring that the education offered at secondary school level is relevant and of high quality, the Ministry continues to make improvements on the newly introduced curriculum assessment and examination system, i.e., the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). Students have written this examination for the third time since its introduction. To reduce costs, the Ministry is currently working on modalities to localize the examination, which will be known as Swaziland General Certificate in Secondary Education (SGCSE). The Examinations Council of Swaziland (ECOS) has made tremendous progress, reported at 100% completion, towards fully reviewing and localizing this curriculum reform. Efforts are also being made to reduce the costs of IGCSE textbooks and workshop teachers on the programme.
The importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education cannot be overemphasized if the country is to take a leap forth to higher levels of economic and social development. The Ministry also recognizes the significance of strengthening the relevance of education in the 21st century work place. To this end, the Ministry is continuously strengthening its computer equipment provision and construction of computer laboratories in schools requiring such facilities, particularly those located in remote rural areas. So far computers have been supplied to over 155 secondary/high schools (about 75% of all secondary schools in the country) and pupils are taught basic computer literacy skills. A post for an ICT senior inspector has been created and filled more posts for ICT instructors in schools have been requested. Schools are also assisted to get electricity connections and wiring so that even the poorest schools can be eligible for the provision of the computers.
7. Equity in the Distribution of Educational Opportunities
The education system in Swaziland continues to be exhibit elements of chronic inequalities in educational attainments (i.e., learning outcomes) and participation of learners from rural and urban based schools, and those from low and high income backgrounds. Quality-enhancing resource inputs, such as infrastructure, teaching and learning materials, qualified teachers and other educational facilities, remain concentrated in urban schools. Financial backgrounds continue to inform educational attainment in that, children from high social and economic settings have better chances of accessing ECCD education, enrolling in good and high performing primary and secondary schools, performing better at both SPC, JC and IGCSE examination levels and thus standing better chances of being enrolled in higher education institutions.
The Education Sector Review prepared by the World Bank reveals that the high pass rates at secondary and tertiary education levels are strongly influenced by the stringent selectivity and exclusivity of the education system, which does not effectively support children from poor economic backgrounds as they transcend through the education ladder. It reflects that 70 percent of children retained in system come from the highest income quintile.
It is unfortunate that bridging the gap between the rich and the poor is not a function of just one sector or Ministry but requires concerted effort, flexibility and cooperation of all sectors. The Education and Training sector, for example, continues to exercise positive discrimination in favour of rural schools in the allocation of resource inputs, such as staff housing facilities, classrooms and other teaching and learning inputs, but these alone are not enough to attract good and qualified teachers if issues of transport, construction proper roads, clinics, electricity, water and other critical social amenities have not been addressed. Strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders and Government Ministries and departments, vigorous political advocacy and support, strategic selection and prioritization of programmes and projects by both the public and private sector, and cost-sharing at all levels, become the most critical requirements and choices we have to provide or make.
8. Education Sector Strategic Planning (ESSP)
The long awaited Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) is almost complete. The chapter on costing, which has been outstanding, has also been completed but currently being reviewed by both the Ministry of Education and Training and the World Bank. The Plan which has been developed with technical assistance from the World Bank, will serve as a framework for the development of education in the country. The Plan is intended to lay out the future vision of the country’s education system and to outline the main course of action that the Government will pursue in the long, medium and short term in order to realize its vision.
The ESSP will define the national priorities within the education sector and provide a framework for decisions on allocation of education resources. It will bolster the case for external financial support for the sector. A National Education and Training Improvement Programme (NETIP), which will be developed by the end of June in 2011, is expected to operationalise or fast-track the implementation of the ESSP. The NETIP will cover strategies to be implemented within the short to medium term period of 3 to 5 years, starting from the year 2011.
Having been approved by Cabinet, the Education Sector Review Report has already been printed and circulated to relevant stakeholders. The review was intended to build a comprehensive empirical knowledge base, identify sector challenges, priority areas and policy options and serve as basis for sector strategy formulation.
9. Education Sector Policies and Legal Frameworks
The Ministry has done tremendously well in the development of policies and legal frameworks for the education sector, particularly in the area of Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Skills Development (TVETSD). The establishment of the TVET Task Team has yielded positive results in terms of the development of new policies and legal frameworks for the sub-sector. The TVET Policy and the legal framework to implement it are now in place; the TVETSD and the National Qualifications Authority Acts, the Council of Educators Act and the Examinations Council Act have been finalized and approved and now operational. The Free Primary Education Act and the Guidelines for the Establishment of Private Educational Institutions are now operational.
The review of the National Education Policy of 1999 is nearing completion. A third draft of the document has already been produced through the engagement of Consultancy Teams to ensure that there are no oversights. Upon finalisation, the policy will inform the development of other sub-sector policies which are currently in draft form such as: the ECCD Policy, the Inclusive Education Policy. The review of the Education Act and the TSC Act and Regulations are still ongoing. The Education Rules of 1977 are still to be reviewed.
On the other hand, the review of the Schools Accounting Regulations and Procedures and the Schools Committee Constitution has progressed well. The review of the School Committee Constitution is complete, whilst progress on the review of the Schools Accounting Regulations is reported to be at 80 percent completion. The Ministry will be engaging a consultant to finalise the draft document, which has already been presented to some relevant stakeholders.
10. Progress on the EU-SET Project Implementation
The European Union funded Support to Education and Training programme, under the 9TH EDF started in 2005 and will end early 2012. The 9th EDF Support to Education and Training (SET) project had a total resource envelop of €23 million. Even though implementation was slowly initially, the project is now fully operational and feedback reviews and evaluations of the project indicate that, to date over 70 percent of the funds allocated have been spent.
The 9th EDF SET (SET 1) project has constructed 58 classrooms, 42 teachers’ houses, a teacher resource centre, a student centre and two workshops. It supplied 240 000 reading books, through the library book boxes programme, desks and chairs for primary schools and equipment for TVET and ECCE. Capitation Grants have paid the school fees of up to 26 000 OVC each year. SET 1 has also supported capacity building of the Ministry of Education and Training management, in particular, the EMIS department. SET 1 will end in 2012 and in its final phase, it will support the completion of the ESSP and the development of NETIP.
The 10th EDF SET (SET 2) project is expected to have a budget of €12.5 million. The prime focus of the project, which is expected to commence immediately after the completion of SET 1 (2012) will be on: i) Primary Education (provision of FPE grants), ii) Curriculum Review (at primary school level to introduce competency-based curricula for each grade and cascaded to IGCSE level) and iii) Policy Review and Development, including operationalisation of the ESSP. This, together with the successful implementation of SET 1, constitutes one of the success stories in the history of the Education and Training sector and the country at large.
Important lessons have however been learnt by the project reviews and individual component evaluations since the inception of the project to date. These border around issues of rationalizing the Capitation Grant Scheme, focusing on fewer education sub-sectors, improving coordination across the sector and having in place a clear and proactive communication strategy.
11. Progress on Construction of 12 New Secondary Schools by JICA
For the first time in the history of the country, a project for the construction of 12 fully-fledged secondary schools by the Government of Japan, through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been approved. This is an initiative by the Ministry through the Planning Unit, to try and address the huge gaps in enrollment and availability of space between primary and secondary education. It is an program aimed at assisting the Government of Swaziland meet the ever rising demand for secondary education space, taking into account other interventions such as the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme.
To date, preparations for the construction of the 12 schools are at a very advanced stage. Sites have been identified, assessments were conducted to justify the need for schools in the proposed sites, environmental impact surveys have been undertaken by the Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA) and electricity and water supply points brought closer to site boundaries. The signing of the Exchange Notes (E/N) and Grant Agreement (G/A), which is expected to take place during the first week of March 2011, will mark the final approval by the Government of Japan. It is expected that the JICA experts will then set up office in the country and commence the engagement of Consultants and Contractors and also begin the procurement of materials. Construction is expected to begin towards the end of 2011, latest early 2012. Construction of all the schools is expected to be completed by 2013.