State schools in Swaziland will only teach Christianity in religious education classes, the government announced last month. In a 24 February 2017 address to Parliament, Minister of Finance Martin Diamini said: “The main objective behind the Christian-based Religious Education is to enable the learner to develop Christian virtues and to build a personal Christian ideal to inspire learners' development and maturity. The focus would be on transmitting knowledge of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.” The Swazi Observer reported the new ruling comes into force with immediate effect. It stated: “The decision reportedly came from the Swazi Cabinet, which is handpicked by King Mswati III.” Religious Education will be a mandatory subject in state primate and secondary schools. The Times of Swaziland on 19 January 2017 reported the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Pat Muir, said move was designed to teach children the difference between right and wrong, and that “Christianity was the best way to achieve this.” State schools had offered instruction in Islam, traditional Swazi ancestral worship, and others faiths but under the new national curriculum they will be banned from the classroom. Teacher’s Union leaders have objected to the decision, which they say violates Section 23 of the nation’s constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, and is also likely to lead to protests from Muslim groups. However, government ministers said Muslims were free to worship as they pleased and to teach their faith in private institutions. However, this did not mean the state could not privilege the teaching of Christianity in government schools. Ruled by the last absolute monarch in Africa, King Mswati III, (pictured) the religious census of Swaziland is 50 per cent Christian, 40 per cent indigenous ancestral worship and 10 per cent Muslim, with a handful of Jews, Mormons and Baha’is. Since 2012 the Rt. Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, has served as bishop of Swaziland, and was the first woman bishop in the 12 African Anglican provinces.
Swaziland state schools to teach only Christianity in religious ed classes