Senator Damion Crawford, the Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Training, has proposed three solutions for the Government to consider as he chided the ongoing book rental shortage in the public education system.
Crawford, speaking yesterday (August 17) at a People’s National Party press conference, said that recent correspondence between the Opposition and principals across the island suggests anywhere from a minimum of 20 per cent to 60 per cent of Jamaican students will not be able to get all their tools of learning due to the woeful supply of textbooks in the Ministry of Education’s secondary school book rental scheme.
According to him, the book shortage worsens for students in non-traditional schools.
Some two weeks ahead of the start of the 2022-23 academic year, Crawford told journalists that the Fayval Williams-led ministry is yet to update the country on readiness levels for back-to-school, adding that the current status of the book rental scheme is “extremely underfunded” and demands urgent redress.
“While the government and its apologists will be quick to argue that lack of care and low return rates [have] contributed to this circumstance, it does not negate the fact that simply by usage, damage will occur to these books,” he said.
“Additionally, [the] necessary replacement quotas in all rental businesses, as is set and is the norm within this type of affair [is lacking and] the programme is extremely underfunded,” mused the senator.
His proposed solutions, for what he called “a group bankrupt on ideas”, are:
- Immediately invest J$2 billion in replenishing the ministry’s rental scheme book stock.
- Seek arrangements with textbook publishers for parents to have online access and remove the dependency on antecedent students to preserve the books.
- Allow books to be purchased online on a per-chapter or as-needed basis to mitigate the immediate cost by extending demand for textbooks over a period of time.
Up to 2017, the Ministry of Education acknowledged a shortage of rental textbooks in the public school network and a commitment of J$1 billion earmarked under the leadership of Ruel Reid was announced 10 years earlier to replace some of the damaged/destroyed texts. However, no updates have been forthcoming on the status of the rental scheme.
Continuing, Crawford argued that shortages in the book rental scheme are just a fraction of a larger, systemic infrastructural issue still persisting in Jamaica’s public education sector.
When asked by Our Today about concerns inflation would have on parents’ purchasing power ahead of the new school year, Crawford suggested that although not directly mentioned, the rising inflation was considered and his suggestion of purchasing online on a per chapter basis would address the issue for parents.