Bookshops are places where we buy books of various kinds at competitive prices, especially at the commencement of a new session. Apart from the prescribed text by schools, one may stumble on other books of interest that could add to one’s knowledge. Our investigations show that things are changing. Among the things that are changing is the prevention of parents from getting books easily for their wards from the bookshops, but must by compulsion, buy the essential text directly from the School.
Some years back, parents would buy books for their children and wards from bookshops with ease, but this has become history, as private school owners, publishers and bookshop owners have created a new order where parents have no choice but to buy textbooks directly from schools at exorbitant amounts.
To worsen parents’ woes, almost all the textbooks now have assignment sections where students write the answer directly, thus making the book unusable by another person or siblings of the initial owner. Parents will have to buy new books for younger siblings, which tell on their pockets.
Parents are bitter
While these arrangements favour the school, bookshops, and publishers; parents who buy the books at higher rates bear the brunt.
Speaking to a parent who resides in Ogba area of Lagos State, Mr Gideon Chukwu, he says, “It’s unfortunate that something like this is happening in the country when things are very difficult. It has become the order of the day that some schools make it compulsory for parents to buy books from schools when such books can be found at cheaper rates at the bookshop. It has reached a stage where government must ensure that schools do not make it compulsory for parents to buy books directly from them”.
“Another strategy employed to fleece parents is to create sections for students’ exercise in textbooks where assignments and tests are carried out, thus rendering it un-transferable to others for use. Proprietors of schools and publishers have to be magnanimous enough by making textbooks transferable from a student to their younger siblings.”
For Sola Abidoye, a resident of Sango Ota area of Ogun State, this practice has been in operation for a long time and it is affecting most of us who are parents. It is high time we stopped buying books from schools at exorbitant prices.”
Contributing to this, Sunday Oyewole says, “The system adopted by schools and publishers is exploitative and they also have to reason with the parents that things are very hard. I think they have to be considerate about it. No one is saying that publishers should not take books directly to schools, but school owners should allow parents to buy books for their children at places where it is affordable.”
While speaking, two school proprietors said, they are making it convenient for parents to buy their books directly from schools instead of making endless search without getting the desired textbooks. They said many parents delay in buying books for their wards and this affects the performances of the students.
Deborah Adesanya, proprietress of Brainville School in the Oke Ira area of Lagos says, “In fact, parents have to be appreciative of this approach because it’s helping their wards in their academic performance. I believe textbooks are affordable at schools for parents and easily accessible for the benefit of their wards. I experienced a situation where some parents failed to buy necessary textbooks for their wards as and when due. This made them to sit beside other students that had textbooks. For how long should we continue to do this? Are they not inconveniencing other students whose parents bought books? I think parents need to be appreciative of what we are doing. It is not a strategy for augmenting the school resources but, to make study easier for their wards in school.”
Corroborating this, a proprietor who prefers anonymity says, “Parents have to know that education is no longer free or cheap. They have to appreciate that they are even getting textbooks for their wards in the schools. While schools will be up to task in their responsibility of giving sound education to the students, parents also have to do their part by making sure that materials their children will need for sound education are made available.”
According to a regular radio phone-in, public affairs contributor, Mr. Friday from Igbo Elerin, “there is an unholy alliance between bookshop owners and private school owners. It is a situation where the bookshop supplies the books directly to the schools while students are now compelled to buy only from the school with some amount added as commission by the school”.
“Another strategy employed to fleece parents is to create sections for students’ exercise in textbooks where assignments and tests are carried out, thus rendering it un-transferable to others for use.”
Perspectives of Bookshop Owners
Bookshops play essential role in promoting literacy, supporting authors and fostering a love for reading. They also serve as gathering places for book enthusiasts and offer a tangible and immersive experience that cannot be replicated by digital platforms.
According to the owner of Treasure Bookshop, Oke Ira, area of Lagos, Clement Ojeikere, “We, the bookshop owners are not the ones taking books directly to schools, publishing companies do supply their textbooks directly to schools to boost their sales. To some extent, while there is direct availability of textbooks for parents at the appropriate rate, we have some parents that do come to bookshops to buy textbooks for their wards.”
Another bookshop owner in Sango area who simply gave his name as Stanley says, “It’s true that schools are selling textbooks to their students, however, that does not stop us from selling too. Many parents who are my customers do come here to buy some that they cannot get at the school.
Sadly, an investigation revealed that with the method where publishers take their books directly to schools, parents will no longer have access to buying books at a cheaper rate from bookshops. They will be left at the mercy of the proprietors who make it compulsory for parents to buy books from schools. At times, the lists of books are attached to the report cards with prices, stating the compulsory ones to be bought in schools.
Education experts say, this is happening because officials of the Ministry of Education, who are supposed to supervise schools’ activities prefer to sit in the comfort of their office. When the officials go on visits to these schools, they prefer to get bribes and look the other way when there is an infraction of the rules than to sanction such schools.
They opine that to tackle this rot in the nation’s private education sector, there should be thorough supervision of schools, prevent schools from selling books to parents at exorbitant prices, have commensurate punishments for erring schools, make unscheduled regular visits to schools, and if possible make free textbooks available to students or help subsidize prices of textbooks.
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