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Opinions of Thursday, 22 March 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

When The School Lacks Textbooks

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

March 02, 2012 Edition of Junior Graphic reports “There is a massive shortage of government textbooks for primary school pupils and JHS students in most public schools in Accra”, elaborating, “Currently, most of the schools have run out of textbooks for core subjects, which are Mathematics, English, Integrated Science and Social Studies, as well as Religious and Moral Education (RME).”
It further states, “The shortage has been attributed to the non-supply of textbooks by the Ghana Education?Service (GES) since 2007” and “As a result of this situation, pupils and students are being forced to share textbooks in class.”
I do not think the above report is news to any of us. The real situations in our schools are common knowledge to all of us. Our schools have been victims of many sorry developments, ranging from infrastructure to shortage of teachers.
We have had several reports of poor pupil performance. Parents/guardians have gone through harrowing psychological and mental conditions over poor feats of their kids. Accusing fingers have been pointed to many factors for such failures. As some blame the school for failing to train students effectively, others lay the blame at the doorsteps of kids; only a few can sit down to do sober reflections on the real cause(s).
The issue of poor child performance is complex. Many factors come into play. Teacher-factor, pupil-factor, defects with the system itself, infrastructural, socio-economic, cultural and political challenges could affect quality education delivery.
However, the beef of this piece is to discuss briefly how the Ghanaian school is suffering as a result of deficits in the supply of textbooks and other reading materials. Reading habits, we are told, are now low among pupils. It may not be due to laziness on the part of the child or reading difficulties but simply because the materials are not there for them to read.
The other day, I heard that some public basic schools in Accra have inadequate textbooks compelling pupils to share the few available in class. The reason was simple. For lack of support, the Ghana Education Service has been unable to produce and distribute new, quality books to schools since 2007. If Mamprobi North '1' Primary in Accra should also go through this situation, I wonder how Ave-Adzigo L/A Primary in the Volta Region would look like.
I cannot fathom how quality education can be promoted in an atmosphere of no textbooks. Hardly would one see a school these days with a well-equipped library or an office with textbooks, story books, magazines, journals, newsletters and periodicals. Even at the colleges and universities, there are problems. Most of the materials are either lacking, worn out or outdated. Most communities too do not have libraries. If any at all, the standard is often below appreciation.
As a person with several years of experience as student and teacher in rural and urban settings, I can say, with confidence, so long as this situation of no textbooks is allowed to remain, pupil performance would also continue to dwindle. It would make no sense to tell pupils to read when there is virtually no book around. In some schools, teachers are the only source of knowledge to pupils. If the teacher should fail to give simplified notes, then majority of pupils would not have anything to read on their own.
A couple of days ago, I almost shed tears when a group of pupil teachers in a rural circuit lamented bitterly at the way and manner they suffer to prepare lessons for their kids. If not because it was a seminar that I was speaking at with heavy presence of education officers, I would have incited the teeming participants to stage some demonstrations to register their sentiments for immediate solutions. How could a school exist without any books on Mathematics yet pupils are expected to receive quality tuition to be able to do well?
What must be understood here is that the rural teacher, for instance, would find it difficult to get access to knowledge from other sources. In some acute situations, there are no electricity and telecommunication facilities then to talk of internet access. Roads are very bad. The rural teacher would have to move helter-skelter to fish for information. But the question still remains, to what extent can he/she reach?
My position is that government can make available to the child speckled social interventions, such as free uniform distribution, free feeding, capitation grants, etc but still the child may perform badly if textbooks are lacking. Knowledge is derived through reading. Hardly the child can gain knowledge in an environment of no or inadequate books.
Actually, I was a bit worried when I overheard the Deputy Director-General of GES in charge of Basic Education, Mr. Stephen Adu, say to the Junior Graphic the other day that a committee has now been set up to review the textbook policy to find out the possibility of reprinting or phasing out for a new set of books to be produced to meet the needs of the child and also for correct syllabi to be printed for distribution across the country. To me, this comment has come too late and sounds like a political promise which is likely to be thrown away. Since 2007 when a new educational system was rolled out, our schools have lived till date without new books and materials, WHY?
E-mail: amoatec27@yahoo.com