Swaziland: ‘No Books’ for Compulsory Christianity

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Some schools in Swaziland report they have not received text books and other materials to teach Christianity, a year after the subject was made compulsory without consultation.

School principals said they had been promised all the material by government but they had not received anything, the Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (7 February 2018).

It quoted principals in schools in the Manzini region who did not want to be named. One said schools were compelled to buy pupils bibles. ‘The pupils informed us that they struggled during the exams as they had no clue of the exam paper.’

The Observer quoted a principal saying, ‘The Ministry of Education and Training should strive to provide quality education and address all the critical issues facing all the schools in the country, rather than for them to improvise for some schools, while neglecting some.’

The Ministry denied books and materials had not been delivered.

In January 2018 Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula said there was not enough money to fund teaching of Christianity. About E33 million (US2.6 million) was needed to fund 169 extra teachers.

The new policy that only Christianity and no other religion could be taught in schools was announced in January 2017. Previously, the Religious Education syllabus included Christianity, Islam, Baha’i faith and Swazi ancestors. The decision reportedly came from the Swazi Cabinet, which is handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. There was no consultation with schools.

The move was controversial. Teaching only Christianity could be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion.

In January 2017, Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) President Freedom Dlamini criticised the way the new syllabus was introduced. In a statement he said, ‘Our education system was immediately thrown back into the dark ages, not that we had ever got out.’

Dlamini added, ‘We don’t want to create religious fundamentalists from our future generation, a predicament that some nations are finding themselves in today.’

According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.

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