Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Schools Without Books

opinion

Students of grade seven and eight going to sit on their final exams after one month before having physics and biology textbooks. Most primary students of private schools also are to be examined with out the access of most textbooks.

Solomon Sissay, 42, has a 10 year old daughter attending fourth grade, at Brehan International School, in Kirkos Disitrct, behind Global Hotel. Four months into the school year and his daughter is still without textbooks, despite having already paid for them.

He expresses frustration that his daughter is having to sit her first semester exams, without having used any of the required books.

On the other hand, for Yordanos Moges, who sends her 11-year old son, Kidus Yilma, to the same school, the concern is that her son is unhappy with his black and white books, whilst neighbouring children, at government schools, have books printed in colour.

The Addis Abeba Education Bureau claims that it has all the required textbooks in its stores but the schools could not collect them on time.

"He hates to open his books," she says.

Such parents have become a constant headache for Belaynesh Bikila, the school's director, who begins each day explaining to worried parents why they are still having this problem.

"The parents think that the problem is with our school," she says. "They do not understand that we have done what we can to get textbooks."

The school requested textbooks from the Addis Abeba Education Bureau, last August, before classes started, and by September it had received only half of the allocation. As registration of students continued, through September, the school requested an additional 273 books, in October. It is still waiting for any part of that delivery to arrive.

The students have to rely on notes taken down from blackboards, according to Belaynesh, which has slowed down both the learning process. The school tries to mitigate the problem by providing photocopies of the required material.

Corner Stone, a private school, in the Berchko Fabrica (Glass Factory) area of Kolfe District, recounts a similar story. It paid 5,061 Br, in September, but only received books worth 2,495Br.In October, it paid an additional 3,699 Br, in two instalments, but it was only able to get books worth 1,212Br.

Private schools receive books through district education offices, who match the requests to the number of students registered. Addis Abeba Education Bureau has a bookstore, in Piazza Atekilt Tera, and another one, at Arat Kilo, inside the Menelik II Preparatory School compound, dedicated solely to supplying private schools. These stores, however, only have one person managing them and it is thus difficult to provide any kind of sufficient service.

Textbook shortages are prevalent in private schools, but even public schools are yet to receive biology and chemistry books, for grades seven and eight. Some teachers atTemenjaYajPrimary Schoolgo to school during the evenings and weekends to prepare short notes for their students. The director and deputy director of the school say that they have enough books for their students. When verifying the contradictory information provided by teachers at the school, Fortune was denied access to school officials.

The majority of students at Temenja Yaj are using old books, prepared within the old curriculum.

"I do not know what to expect from these students in the national exam," one of the teachers said.

The problem could partly be solved by better store management. Some government schools have an excess number of books, which are then returned to sub-city education offices. In theory, these excess books are then available to be distributed amongst other schools, which have not been able to yet fulfil their textbook requirements. A school, in Yeka District, has already informed officials of excess textbooks in its possession, but no steps have been taken to reallocate the textbooks, according to Ashenafi Kebede, curriculum development coordinator.

"It is the negligence of the store keepers and school administrators that intensifies the problem," says Ashenafi.

According to research conducted on the quality of primary education, in selected regions, by theInstituteofEducational Research, atAddisAbebaUniversity, the quality of the education is declining.

One of the components contributing to the poor quality of education is text books, the study reveals.

"It is impossible to assume educational success without educational materials; primarily without textbooks," says Firdissa Jedessa (PhD), a director of change management and reform office, atAddisAbebaUniversity.

There are 728 public and 334 private primary schools, in Addis Abeba, with a total of 508,354 students. Out of this total, 63,544 are in grade seven and 59,250 are grade eight students.

Seventh and eighth graders, in government schools, will get their chemistry and biology textbooks soon, according to Ashenafi, as distribution started last week. He would not say, however, why it has taken so long.

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