Unions fight Mswati’s delay of school year

MBABANE — The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and teacher unions from other Southern African countries will write to Sadc to stop King Mswati III from pushing back the start of the academic school year by a week.

This comes after reports that the king ordered that schools reopen on January 27 rather than on Tuesday January 20 so that his fields could be weeded.

The order has already prompted outrage from teacher unions in the region, who say it amounts to child labour and is a violation of children’s right to education.

Teacher unions under the Southern African Teachers’ Organisation (Sato) include Sadtu, the Namibia National Teachers’ Union, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers.

Sadtu secretary-general Mugwena Maluleke said yesterday that regional unions met on Thursday and Friday last week under Sato to discuss the king’s order.

He said Sato would write a letter to Sadc asking them to stop King Mswati III from delaying the start of the academic year.

“The body has decided to mobilise Sadc governments to change the practice of child labour and rule throughout Sadc nations that child labour is an unacceptable practice. As the Sadc body, we will write to Sadc protocol to have these practices outlawed,” Maluleke said.

The International Labour Organisation already considers education “a crucial component of any effective effort to eliminate child labour”.

Maluleke said it was not yet clear how many children schooled in SA would be affected by the order, should it stand, but said all public schools in Africa’s last absolute monarchy would be affected.

“We don’t have the size, but in the 21st Century, we can’t have a situation where children are subjected to child labour. Whether it is 200 children or less it can’t be acceptable in a time of economic difficulties from which the only escape is education,” he said.

The letter would be drafted, completed and adopted yesterday, and then sent today, Maluleke said.

He added that the Swaziland National Association of Teachers would write to the Kingdom of Swaziland asking that the order be set aside, but said they could expect to be “terrorised and arrested without trial” by the “high-handed” king.

– BD Live

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