Eswatini Shuts all Schools as Students Protests Continue

The Eswatini government has shut down all schools as the crisis in the country deepens amid pro-democracy protests.

The move by the government to shut schools “indefinitely” comes after weeks of sustained protests by school children as they boycotted classes.

The students have been demanding quality learning equipment, free education and improved learning conditions.

They have also joined nationwide pro-democracy protests, calling for an end to monarchical rule and want all political prisoners released, including two parliamentarians who were arrested earlier this year.

Swaziland Youth Congress President, Sonke Dube, says the decision to close down the schools has had a negative impact on the academic year. According to him, despite closures due to COVID-19 further closure would only serve as to gharm the educational system further.

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Pro-democracy protests flared up in Eswatini, months after authorities loyal to the southern African country’s absolute monarch quashed an earlier round of demonstrations using tear gas and water cannon.

Anger against King Mswati III has been building for years. Campaigners say the 53-year-old King has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would nudge Eswatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy.

King Mswati III

The King has denied accusations of autocratic rule and of using public money to fund a lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation that borders South Africa.

In July, he labelled protests against his rule satanic and said they had taken the country backward.

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The protests included demonstrations in schools by students chanting “Mswati must fall” and “Release our MPs,” a reference to two lawmakers arrested during anti-monarchy protests this year.

Public transport remained at a standstill in Eswatini was rocked by a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Private taxi and commuter bus operators calling for the release of two pro-democracy lawmakers have also pledged to continue a transport shutdown until their demands were met.

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