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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

In the first post-independence National Development Plan of 1969 and the 1972 Manifesto signed by the Imbokodvo National Movement, the Government of Swaziland proclaimed that education, whether in state subsidized or private schools, was to be controlled by the Government of Swaziland and an inalienable right that all children and citizens have regardless of their capabilities. The bias inherited from the colonial school system was to be uprooted, and students were to be educated not merely as clerks, teachers, and nurses, but also in other areas. As the purpose of education is to produce an enlightened and participant citizenry, its content must be work-oriented from the primary to the higher levels. The government sees as its goal the universal, free primary education for every child of Swaziland and that merit and aptitude will be the only criteria for selection into secondary and other forms of higher education. The government will continue to provide special state bursaries and scholarships for higher education; improved and enlarged facilities for secondary education, with special extra-mural facilities; and special schools and specialized educational institutions for handicapped and retarded children. Love for the land, loyalty to the King and the country, self-respect, self-discipline, respect for the law, the highest degree of knowledge, and the building of character are the goals of education. The Manifesto emphasizes that teachers are crucial in the implementation of Swaziland's educational policies and should be well provided for.

Swaziland has set and monitored its educational goals within the framework of five-year National Development Plans. The First National Development Plan (1969-1973) focused mainly on the expansion and improvement of primary and secondary education, the training of teachers, and curriculum development. A particular concern was the eradication of illiteracy and that all Swazi citizens should be provided with an education appropriate to their needs and abilities and to the country's development requirements. Progress made in these first five years after Independence was such that the Second National Development Plan (1973-1978) could place emphasis on the restructuring and the raising of the quality of education. By the time of the Fourth National Development Plan (1984-1988), the government was able to focus on improving quality and relevance in education and expand teacher training. While continuing dropout and failure rates, overcrowded classrooms, and inadequate educational facilities indicate that many of the goals were not met, the plan is evidence of the Swazi government's commitment to education.

Language Policy: At independence Swaziland, like most other African countries, faced the need to make a choice regarding both the national and the official language they were to use. Such a decision involves practical issues of survival, such as economic trade and development and international communication. There were also issues relating to political, social, cultural, and personal identity. In the Anglo and Francophone countries, the languages of the colonial powers were already the official languages used for administrative, legal, and economic purposes. They were, however, also the language of the oppressor, the one being asked to give the indigenous nation its independence and leave. The national language, on the other hand, is the language of the people, the language of pride, self-worth, and cultural and national identity. It is the language that was ignored or even ridiculed by the colonial power, and at best it was a minor subject taught in school. It is, however, also a language not equipped as a vehicle for wider communication and trade. Unlike many other African countries, Swaziland has only one national language, siSwati. The dilemma facing educators is that in the midst of the process of encouraging students to gain their own national and cultural identity through education, there is the implicit suggestion that their own language is inadequate and therefore inferior.

Though the education system was inadequate and the formal education received by Swazi children was unequal to that of whites, Swaziland, like most British colonies and in comparison to some of its immediate neighbors, had a relatively useful educational system at independence. However, English was the medium of instruction. It was thus almost inevitable that English would continue to be the language used in the classroom. Also, in 1966, when Swaziland became independent, it would have been difficult to provide secondary school education through siSwati as the latter had not yet been developed as a written language. In 1967 siSwati was introduced as a school subject and other languages such as Zulu and Afrikaans, two of South Africa's languages, were phased out. SiSwati was tested for the first time at the Primary School Examination in 1975, the Junior Certificate level in 1978, and the Senior Certificate level in 1980.

The early years of primary school are generally taught in siSwati, and English is one of the subjects taught. English, as the medium of instruction for all subjects, is used exclusively from the secondary level onward. It is also taught as a subject. It is impossible to pass either the Junior or the Senior Certificate exams without passing English. The country's bilingual education system causes some concern for educators. Psychologically the learning of English, the requirement that students speak it fluently to whose who speak English as a first language, and the studying of all subjects in a language totally foreign in style, cultural base, and concept to one's own, as well as having to compete with others in their mother-tongue, is far too exacting a task for any but the most linguistically talented students. It is highly probable that this state of affairs disadvantages many students' prospects and can be one of the reasons for the high failure and dropout rate. On the other hand, English is the language of international access and studying in English gives those able to attain the necessary language skills access to the international world of science, technology, commerce, and politics as well as to the Internet.

Efforts to promote cultural identity and nationalism through the regular use of siSwati have met with positive responses since it gained recognition as a written language rich in literature and vocabulary. In order to develop a sense of national pride and emphasize the importance of having one's own language, siSwati is taught from a pure linguistic and historical linguistic point of view at the university level. Local writers are being encouraged to write within the local environment, and book publishers such as Macmillan and Longman are running writing workshops to further these endeavors. Well-known writers from South Africa have given talks at these workshops, and UNESCO has sponsored a research project which includes lexicographical field work to promote the love, awareness, and importance of Swazi culture.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceSwaziland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education