As education is a pillar of socioeconomic development in Eswatini, in 2010 Government implemented plans to ensure that access to formal education was possible for all children regardless of their social and economic circumstances. This was through the introduction of the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme.

However, studies reveal that the quality of basic education in the country is not up to standard, for instance, 6th graders were found to perform much lower in reading and mathematics compared to their peers from Kenya and Tanzania. On the other hand, the completion rate at primary school level stands at 88%, revealing a lack in internal efficiency, notably due to repetition (Inqaba Report, 2017).

Is the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini getting a return on its investment in basic education? This is the same question that is being raised in neighbouring South Africa, where studies show that 27% of pupils who have attended school for six years in that country cannot read, compared to 4% in Tanzania and 19% in Zimbabwe. This, despite the fact that on average South Africa allocates between 4.7% and 4.9% of its gross domestic product to basic education whereas Tanzania allocates only about 3.5% but obtains better results.

An article published in the Mail and Guardian notes that a comparison with other developing countries brings little joy as South Africa’s education system performs worse than those of Zimbabwe, Kenya and Eswatini. The authors further opine that this clearly shows that South Africa is not getting the expected rate of return on its investment in education.

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