BY SAMBULO DLAMINI in Mbabane
AT least two schoolgirls, one in primary and another in high school, are recovering from gunshot wounds in Eswatini.
An unspecified number of them have been arrested as pro-democracy protests escalate.
Security forces and protesting students have turned schools into battlefields.
Growing anger has met King Mswati III’s administration deploying security forces to quell protests that have filtered down to schools in the troubled nation.
Police have been slammed for allegedly firing teargas at some schools.
Education has come to a standstill around the country as pupils join their university counterparts and other pro-democracy groups in the regime’s worst resistance by citizenry since independence in 1968.
Reports this week suggested a primary school girl was shot allegedly by security forces during a protest in unnamed rural schools.
Media and online footage showed a girl screaming in agony and struggling for breath and being assisted by some adults at a school.
In another incident, the royal police on Monday allegedly shot from close range a high school girl at the Duze High School in the Lubombo region of central Eswatini.
She was said to be recovering at a local hospital at the time of going to press.
Gun-wielding royal police this week stormed John Wesley Secondary and Mater Dolorosa High Schools, both in the capital Mbabane, and made some arrests.
It could not be ascertained how many students were arrested.
The schools have experienced some protests in recent days.
The same picture is obtaining in the Zandondo Primary and High Schools in the eastern Simunye town.
Mhlatane High School in the northwestern Piggs Peak town has not been spared.
Education was also at a standstill in the Mayiwane School in the same town.
At Sphofaneni High in Lubombo, pupils chanted revolutionary songs as they picketed.
There were reports of police chasing pupils at the Nkalashane Primary School at Lomahasha in Lubombo.
Teachers have sent home most school children in the wake of the rising protests advocating for reforms and the release of pro-democracy Members of Parliament Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.
They have been detained since the end of July at the onset of the protests.
The Children’s Consortium said it was concerned at the deployment of armed forces, burning of school infrastructure and the arrest of pupils.
It stated the violations against children were unjustifiable.
“A child is a child no matter the circumstances,” the civil society organisation stated.
“This will impact on the future of the children and development of the country,” the consortium added.
Meanwhile, the University of Eswatini on Tuesday closed its campus in Kwaluseni.
Vice Chancellor, Prof. Justice Thwala, said this as a result “following disturbances which endanger the safety and security of staff, students and university property.”
Mswati III is the Chancellor.
The varsity campus has been closed “until further notice” and students were supposed to have “evacuated” by the afternoon of the announcement.
Amnesty International has reported that the protests since July and the subsequent deployment of forces had left over 70 people dead and 150 others hospitalized.
This week, Minister of Education, Lady Howard Mabuza, said the calendar for ongoing examinations would not be altered despite what government termed sporadic riots by pupils in some schools around the country.
She urged parents to restrain their children.
“Children need to be guided on acceptable behaviour, particularly during times like these,” Mabuza said.
The minister was scheduled to meet representatives of all schools from Wednesday.
Critics accuse Mswati III of running the former Swaziland like a personal fiefdom since he ascended to the throne in 1986, aged 18.
Before the current protests, his monarchy faced a rise in student and labour protests in the 1990s.
At independence, Eswatini adopted a Westminster-style constitution but then-King Sobhuza, Mswati III’s father, annulled in 1973 by decree.
He assumed supreme powers in all executive, judicial and legislative matters. – CAJ News