A new school year has begun and parents and guardians are still challenged to find those well-needed textbooks for their children. While talking to parents they tell the tale of how much it costs to buy books and how they are unable to reuse textbooks that were bought last year by their nieces and nephews for various reasons. I could not help but take a step back in time and reflect on my school days as a child.
I grew up in a typical rural family, with mother and father and quite a few brothers and sisters, while other relatives were not far away. The church also played a vital role in our upbringing. Our parents were unable to buy new books and clothes every school year, therefore the younger ones had to use "hand mi downs".
My mother had a barrel where she would store books, and as we moved from grade to grade she would dig deep and tick off books from the booklist. She would take to church a list of the ones we did not have and ask church families for assistance. With all that, we would go back to school with all our books, without having to spend a dollar for textbooks.
Today, it is almost impossible for children to use books that were already used by their siblings, as each year books are revised and a new edition is published. A co-worker of mine was told by the school that her child could not use a textbook that her nephew had used in the same class last year as the new edition was the required text. It is mind-boggling how some of our teachers can be so insensitive to the needs of our poor parents who are finding it hard to ensure that their children get a good education. On examination of the revised edition, there were no significant differences with the old and new text. There were a few questions added and some pictures were in colour nstead of black and white.
Minister Thwaites, these are issues that need to be addressed from the ministry level. There must be standardised texts for all grade levels and teachers must be flexible to work with students who are unable to buy a later edition. On the night of September 4, 2012, Michelle Obama in her campaign speech said, "...helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself; that success isn't about how much money we make, but about the difference we make in people's lives." Teachers, let us strive to make a difference in the lives of our children, let's work together for the greater good. Let's accommodate those students who can afford to take only "hand mi down" books to school and find creative ways of including them in additional information that is published in newer editions.
Kaneil A Murray