For those of us working in academic institutions, it is that time of the year again – when students return from their vacations, or their internships, or just hanging about, or vegging out at home. A time of excitement, especially for the ones just starting, and a little apprehension too, on so many fronts.
Here in Ghana, textbooks – or maybe I should say, the lack thereof, are a definite issue, especially for the basic and secondary levels. With large print runs – there are nearly 20,000 schools at the basic level – contracts for textbooks at the lower level can be quite attractive to publishers, especially when they are adopted by the Ministry of Education/Ghana Education Service. Does this mean that every child in Ghana has a text book for each of his/her classes? I doubt…
Yet are copies of prescribed or recommended books available outside the schools? Again I doubt..
Even in secondary schools where the numbers are not so great, I have yet to hear of students being supplied with books. All too often lists are sent home, and parents are asked to make sure that children/wards have them. Some of these are available, as are many study guides, or sets of practice examination questions – as if passing exams is the only reason for attending secondary education?
But where I work is different – it is tertiary, and unlike many other institutions that I know of here, it supplies students with textbooks. Ashesi University College usually provides each student with one text per semester course. These are loaned to students, and then returned so a succeeding year may make use of them.
Lack of learning materials therefore can’t be used as an excuse for not learning, or for hoarding a book from an institution library or massive photocopying – at least in theory.
So this week my colleagues and I have spent many hours giving out texts, to help new and old students on their learning paths. Some complain that the books are heavy. True. But how would they feel if they didn’t have any?
Do they realise that their colleagues in some universities have to buy books themselves, and even that can be hit and miss, as the bookshops rarely have huge numbers of these in stock?