Tertiary education in Swaziland has ground to a halt after the country’s only university closed its doors on Monday, the first day of the new academic year. The university’s bankrupt, and officials said it will remain closed indefinitely. By SIMON ALLISON.
Problems have been brewing for a while at the University of Swaziland. A significant chunk of the university’s income comes from the 1,200 students sponsored by the government. As there are only 5,785 students in total, this means that 20% of the university’s income comes directly from the coffers of the state. And as those coffers aren’t exactly overflowing right now (even with the injection of a R2.4 billion loan from South Africa), the state, after dithering for weeks and leaving thousands of hopeful students in the dark, announced it was only sponsoring 300 students. And even those students were not provided with the usual documentary guarantees from the government that allow the university to process their applications.
The Swazi government might well greet news of the university’s closure with relief. Universities are traditional centres of dissent and rebellion, and Swaziland’s no different. The current president of the Swaziland National Union of Students is in jail, detained for his role in the 12 April anti-government protests. On top of that and before they were told there wouldn’t be a university anyway, this year’s freshmen students were warned sternly not to get involved in politics. “I have seen some who got involved in politics and they had their future destroyed. It will not help you,” said vice chancellor Cisco Magagula to the students at their ultimately pointless orientation.
The University of Swaziland has its origins in the 1960s as the University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, and counts South African defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu and mining millionaire Patrice Motsepe among its alumni. DM
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