Sunday Observer - - NEWS - BY ZWELETHU DLAMINI

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.

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