Very costly lessons - Hannam bemoans book price increases
With the new academic year scheduled to begin in a little over a week's time and news that school books have been hit by significant price increases, Everton Hannam, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), is expressing concern that many of the required texts are not even reusable.
The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) yesterday reported that there was an overall six per cent increase in textbook average prices islandwide. The early-childhood sector was not spared the upward movement, as books at that level saw hikes as high as 10 per cent.
Hannam is urging parents to be smart and to make the necessary sacrifices despite the additional burden of increased prices.
"What we have noticed is that a number of books are not able to be handed down. So once you buy a book, most times, it is a workbook, and so you can't hand them down anymore," he said.
"In cases where they are not workbooks, however, we have to start promoting book fairs, which many schools would have organised. You are able to purchase books at a lower rate. I believe we need to have more and more of those activities."
He added, "Books are important tools for education and, in many cases, teachers do not encourage the sharing of books because it limits your progress. So while we call on parents to make the necessary sacrifice, we look forward to the day when just as how we have generic medicine, we can have books of that kind, because the printing of books sometimes comes at a high cost, especially when they are imported."
CAC: Many factors contributed to increase
The release issued by the CAC yesterday indicated that 19 more book stores were surveyed than in 2016.
In giving a breakdown of the increased prices, the CAC noted that, islandwide, infant school texts soared by an average seven per cent ($74.02). The price changes ranged from a one per cent ($10.93) to 10 per cent ($97.00) surge. Primary school texts increased by an average five per cent ($73.65). The price changes ranged from a decrease of approximately seven per cent ($101.59) to a ballooning 12 per cent ($153.82).
Grades seven to nine school texts rose by an average of approximately 10 per cent ($244.57). The price changes witnessed ranged from a reduction of nine per cent ($132.93) to a hike of 70 per cent ($1635.21). Meanwhile, CSEC/CAPE texts increased by an average of six per cent ($99.71). The price changes detected ranged from a decrease of 15 per cent ($452.33) to a jump of 82 per cent ($652.50).
The CAC said there were a few factors that could have contributed to the increases. They said that in addition to inflation, which, according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, was 4.4 per cent point-to-point for the period July 2016 to July 2017, the cost of texts could have been impacted by revisions in content, changes in the materials used during production, location of the outlet, and availability.