JAMAICA | Textbook Shortage a Travesty of Justice for our Children says Senator Damion Crawford

JAMAICA | Textbook Shortage a Travesty of Justice for our Children says Senator Damion Crawford

KINGSTON, Jamaica, September 28, 2022 - Opposition Spokesman on Education, Senator Damion Crawford has put forward a number of recommendations aimed at providing a short-term solution to the grave island-wide shortage of text books available to students under the Government Book Rental Programme.

In a statement today, Senator Crawford recommended that “while we await a timely response from the Minister of Education to this most urgent matter of national importance. we recommend the following: 

  • 1. Implement a reimbursement scheme for parents/guardians who are willing and able to purchase books listed on the government book rental programme
  • 2. Communicate with publishers for codes to be sent of chapters of each book so that parents can print as necessary at their cost where affordable
  • 3. Communicate with teachers to have homework sections photocopied as a short-term reprieve.

Senator Crawford reminded that “on August 18, 2022, in my capacity as Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Training, I highlighted the impending issue of a grave shortage of books available to students under the Government Book Rental Programme. At that time, we warned that as much as 60% of students would not have access to the books they were meant to have. The Ministry of Education found this to be unimportant, and instead downplayed the severity of the issue.”

He said “the truth is being revealed in a recent Jamaica Gleaner article of  September 22, 2022, entitled “Schools juggling textbooks, furniture, teacher shortages”. 

He said the article quoted President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) La Sonja Harrison highlighting that,” three weeks into the new school year, educators were doing their best to cope with staff, furniture, and textbook shortages”.

Senator Crawford noted that “Mrs. Harrison lamented that “Some schools have not received any books at all, and those who were lucky enough to receive any have received inadequate numbers to date”. 

“This means that our children who have already suffered a setback in their education because of the COVID crisis, are now facing yet another hurdle of not having the required textbooks promised by the Government,” he said. 

Some schools are even asking parents to buy textbooks that are part of the government book rental scheme to make up for the clear disadvantages that students will face without them. 

“On September 1, 2022, the Minister of Education said that two billion dollars "will be" allocated for this purpose but so far, this hasn't happened. I am concerned that just six days before the start of the school year, the Minister was making promises that the funds will be allocated, instead of being proactive and ensuring that schools had the necessary supplies prior to the reopening of schools. Indeed, the provision of textbooks should have been at the end of the implementation stage and not just the planning/funds allocation stage,” the Crawford release said. 

The Opposition Senator pointed out that “the Government's lazy and lackluster approach to providing the necessary learning resources for our children is at minimum a gross dereliction of duty.”

 Senator Crawford has asked the minister to provide immediate answers to the public on the following question

  • 1. What caused the delay in allocating funds to the Book Rental Scheme?
  • 2. When will these funds be spent? 
  • 3. Is there a complete list of the books needed?
  • 4. What is the timeline for the full distribution of the books?

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