UNICEF: Free Primary School Becoming a Reality in Swaziland
In the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and the global conference titled “E4 - Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality” to be held in Dakar, Senegal from 17-20 May, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories on girls education and gender equality. Here is one of those stories.
By Shantha Bloemen
ENTFUBENI, Swaziland, 14 May 2010 At sundown, Thulani Gama tells his 10-year-old twin siblings to collect firewood while he grinds corn for their supper. At sunrise, he wakes the twins and tells them to wash. Without breakfast, all three children begin their hour-long walk to school in rural Swaziland.
Thulani, 13, is the head of his small household. He and his siblings Samkelo and Samkelisiw look after one another since, like many parents, their widowed mother left home to look for work in Mbabane, Swazilands capital. Thanks to a new programme supported by UNICEF and the Government of Swaziland, Thulani and his siblings are now able to attend school.
The Government of Swaziland is aiming to improve access to education for vulnerable children. A 2005 constitutional law requires the first phase of free primary school education, starting with grades one and two. The programme will expand by one grade level each year until 2015, when it will cover all seven grades of primary school.