PREVOCATIONAL TRAINING, FPE CONUNDRUM AT SWAZI NATIONAL
In the midst of the debate about Free Primary Education (FPE) and the introduction of prevocational training in schools there is a view that both have negative effects on pupils in high schools as there is no adequate infrastructure and resources to accommodate the pupils.
FPE is seen to have increased the demand for spaces in high schools and in turn created a shortage of infrastructure and learning tools. Prevocational training on the other hand has been received with mixed feelings by both parents and pupils.
At Swazi National High School for instance, pupils and parents have raised concerns over these issues, revealing that some of the pupils in Form One class identified as H were not able to do agriculture allegedly due to a shortage of land, tools, and farm inputs and infrastructure.
Responding to this allegation the headteacher, Brian Dlamini, admitted that some of the pupils could not do the subject as only about 90 per cent were able to take the subject. He however did not admit that such was due to the shortages suggested by the pupils and parents but said the children had chosen the stream where agriculture is not offered.
When told that the pupils had stated that they had been informed that they were expected to do all subjects in their first year before choosing their preferred subject in Form Two he said it was noted and would be addressed by the curriculum review committee.
Other parents also revealed that pupils found themselves in the prevocational class even when they qualified for other streams due to shortage of spaces in their preferred streams which did not go down well with them.
The headteacher said it was true that the school pride is in the commercials and pure sciences which render these streams to have limited spaces compared to the prevocational class known as class F.
He however clarified that parents are informed of the shortage of spaces in the other streams when they are full. Dlamini said the controversy then arose when the parents wanted to change the pupils from class F to the other classes, adding that such is not allowed by the school.
He said another challenge is that parents want their children to do certain courses only to find that the subject combination from previous results did not qualify them which also caused the misunderstandings.
The principal also pointed out that there was fear from parents that pupils who chose the prevocational subjects were not going to be accepted in tertiary institutions which he said was not true.
He said some colleges had come out to state that from this year they will be accepting those pupils hence they should not panic. Dlamini encouraged parents and pupils to report irregularities and register their complaints with the school.
Manzini Regional Education Officer Mlimi Mamba when consulted on the issue said the parents should visit his office so they would work out a solution. He stated that he was not aware of the criterion used by the school but the education sector policy does not allow discrimination and segregation of pupils based on their academic performances.
He stated that at times the school and the parents may discuss the options for the pupil but it would be wrong for the school to compel the child to take certain subjects based on their academic performances without engaging them or the parents.
Pupils from the school had mixed feelings about the classes as some said they were happy being in those classes while others said they were unhappy.
A pupil in class C said she would have like to be in class F while others said they hated the class as they would not have a choice to do the subjects that they are currently doing had they been in class F.
A teacher from the school said they were also not clear on the way pupils were allocated classes saying they needed clarity as such seemed to be known by the headteacher and another teacher who is also the boarding master referred to as Cindzi.