Some Information on Swaziland
Swaziland is a small, land-locked country in Southern Africa situated between South Africa and Mozambique. Rooted deeply in tradition, the country is one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world, ruled since 1987 by His Majesty King Mswati III. Though the vast majority of Swaziland’s roughly 1 million people are Christians, traditional Swazi culture is still very much alive in the country. The most well-known celebration of Swazi culture is the annual Umhlanga or Reed Dance, when young women come from all corners of the country to dance for the king.
Outside of the country’s two main cities, Mbabane and Manzini, most Swazis live in traditional stick-and-mud or cement structure homes in the rural areas. On one rural homestead several generations of families live together, each in a separate building, ensuring that long-established traditions and values are passed from one generation to the next. Because of the slowly fading tradition of polygamy, which is still somewhat present in the rural areas, one homestead may be home to as many as four wives. Most families in the rural areas survive on a combination of subsistence farming and remittances from family members living abroad or in the country’s cities. The staple crop of most families, which most grow on their homesteads, is maize, which is supplemented with boiled vegetables, gravy, beans or a small portion of meat for most meals.
Education in Swaziland is based on the British school system and includes primary (Grades 1-7), secondary (Forms 1-3) and high school (Forms 4-5). Courses offered at schools include geography, mathematics, science, siSwati, English, religious education, agriculture, and business studies, though schools in Mbabane and Manzini often offer subjects as diverse as French and music. All students learn English beginning in Grade 3, though many people in the rural areas, particularly the elderly, communicate only in siSwati. Because of high school fees and because progression in school is based on passing a series of exams, many children in Swaziland do not complete school beyond Grade 7.
Since the early 1990s, Swaziland has been plagued by a number of developmental issues, the most significant of which is HIV/AIDS. In addition to having the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (42.6% of pregnant women), Swaziland also has one of the highest rates of Tuberculosis (TB) in the world. Economically, Swaziland has very few natural resources or indigenous industries, relying largely on South Africa both for imports and employment. Since 2000, Swaziland has also been stricken by drought conditions that have created a long-term food security problem, particularly in the eastern portion of the country. For these reasons, many international and non-governmental organizations maintain a presence in the country.
Despite the country’s developmental challenges, visitors coming to Swaziland for the first time will be overwhelmed by its beautiful, mountainous scenery and friendly people, two of the country’s greatest attributes. The weather in Swaziland, though mild compared to freezing and scorching temperatures found elsewhere in Africa, varies greatly by season, as well as from one region to the next. As Pasture Valley, there is sometimes frost during the winter months of May to August, while temperatures in the summer months of December to February can reach as high as 36°C. The rainy season in Swaziland generally lasts from November to January, though weather patterns are not always predictable.
For more information on Swaziland’s history, politics or culture, you may visit the following web pages: