On 24 April, 2022 at Happy Valley Conference venue, The Swaziland Network Campaign for Education for All (SWANCEFA), which is Vice chair of the Children’s Consortium under the auspice of the CANGO, hosted a meeting with the SADC Parliamentary Forum and Women MPs to discuss a gender responsive education budget to address SRH related challenges young girls face that prohibit their prospect to complete the school cycle.
It was stated by SWANCEFA that in Eswatini, a report by MoET and UNICEF4 shows that more girls are dropping out of lower secondary than boys, with early pregnancy being the main driver. These and other challenges that girls continue to face mean that education budgets have to be gender responsive by having a specifically designed bias that help girls to overcome different barriers to their education, which they would not be able to overcome, if resources and opportunities are availed at the same level as those for boys. In a country like Eswatini where the gender dynamics seem to be more in favour of boys, a gender responsive budgeting in education will thus aim at ensuring that resources are allocated in an equitable way that is responsive to girls’ specific needs and aims at addressing the barriers which inhibit girls’ access to quality educational opportunities. Therefore, Eswatini’s education budget should go beyond just getting girls into school.
In a policy brief on Education Financing prepared by SWANCEFA, it was revealed that “While Eswatini’s education sector has continued to receive the largest share of the national budget (see Fig 2), it must be noted that the growth of this share as a %age of the total budget has shown a declining trend over the last few years. For example, between the 2016/17 and the proposed 2022/23 national budgets the education allocation has dropped from 21% of the national budget to 15% respectively”. Various other issues affecting young girls in accessing education were robustly deliberated in this meeting.
Amongst the various speakers at this meeting, the CANGO executive Director also made a presentation in which an intervention to the funding of education was proposed. The Director highlighted that poverty is a problem amongst emaSwati. Therefore, the Director proposed a 2 % education skills development levy across all employed emSwati. This levy will be used to pay for education for all. Also, it was noted that the current funding model is not sufficient. Furthermore, it was suggested that a skills development authority be established to collect and distribute funds. The Director also stated that the schools in the rural areas should be prioritised in order to ensure that the standards are the same across the board in that there is no difference in rural and urban public schools. The Director also highlighted some anticipated benefits of this proposed levy such as reducing the burden of public education costs on poor, middle class families, improvement of school infrastructure, reduction of teen pregnancies and dropout rates. This was then followed by a question and answer session where participants sought clarity on the finer details of the proposed levy.
Participants of this meeting includes Women MPs, disabled persons representatives, quality education advocates, gender advocates and human rights advocates, amongst others. CANGO commends such engagement platforms where conducive discussions occur and further acknowledges the efforts of SWANCEFA and partners in actively advocating for quality, accessible and equitable education.