Alert / Media Alert

Cops beat and detain students in Swaziland

MISA-Swaziland | Alert
March 5 2014

Local media in Swaziland reported that police “manhandled” and “detained” students at a high school in the country’s capital Mbabane as the students protested against the school’s decision to suspend sporting activities.

According to two daily newspapers, the school yesterday called the police after students started their impromptu protest.

“About 100 Mbabane Central High School pupils were yesterday detained by police for hours for allegedly leading their colleagues into wildcat class boycott,” said the Swazi Observer, a daily newspaper effectively owned by the nation’s ruler King Mswati III.

“It was total chaos at the school as the pupils clashed with both teachers and police, demanding lifting of sporting activities’ suspension imposed by school authorities.”

The newspaper says the students went “berserk” and police had to be called to “drum some sense”.

The students “ran around the school whilst police chased after them dragging them back to class.

“Some of the pupils were beaten by the police officers who did not even want to hear what the pupils were complaining about”, reported the Swazi Observer.

Times of Swaziland front page, March 5 2014

Times of Swaziland front page, March 5 2014

The Times of Swaziland, a privately-owned daily newspaper, also reported on the clash between students and police.

“The pupils told [Principal] Gwebu that they wanted the administration to change its decision of not allowing pupils to take part in sporting activities.”

The school said they suspended sporting activities because too many students were failing exams and needed to focus more on their studies.

The Times of Swaziland reported that “police chased the pupils and assaulted them as they ordered them to go to class. The action forced the pupils to run helter-skelter, with most of them jumping through windows as they evaded the advancing police officers.”

Photos from Times of Swaziland, March 5 2014

Photos from Times of Swaziland, March 5 2014

The article continues: “Some pupils who were hurt were seen weeping as they claimed to have been injured during the fracas. The assembly square was cleared within a twinkle of an eye after the police’s intervention.”

Students were also calling for the school’s computer lab to be made available to them. The Swazi Observer reported the students were not happy because parents had paid for the computer lab but it was sitting idle.

Reporting on student’s issues in Swaziland is often shallow, painting the young people as overly troublesome and pesky. The news reports often fail to hear the genuine grievances of the students, who are often the most affected by the country’s poor handling of education.

Photos from Swazi Observer, March 5 2014

Photos from Swazi Observer, March 5 2014

Photos from Swazi Observer, March 5 2014

Photos from Swazi Observer, March 5 2014

A study by MISA-Swaziland in 2013 showed that in 90 percent of the stories about young people there was no voice of an actual young person in the story. Similar to many issues that are raised in the Swazi media, the people who are central to the story are often not included in the reporting. This leaves a one-sided picture of events and an over-reliance on the voices of a small circle of powerful people. Click here to read more about the media in Swaziland.

And click here to hear the views of Swazi university students who explain why they strike and boycotts class, as well as discussing — more generally — what it is like being a student in Swaziland.

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