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Not enough textbooks to go around

Students in the poorest countries are suffering from a lack of basic resources such as textbooks according to a new study conducted by a United Nations agency.

The report “Every child should have a textbook” from UNESCO found that there are simply not enough textbooks to go around and that students in Cameroon are having to share one reading book between 12 students.

UNESCO is calling for a more centralised purchasing system which could save almost US$1billion in  Sub-Saharan Africa alone. The study argues that improved financial models could help triple the number of textbooks available worldwide, particularly in the poorest countries. According to the study by providing all children with access to textbooks literacy scores could increase by 5-20%.


 “Next to a good teacher, well-designed textbooks in sufficient quantities are the most effective way to improve students’ learning. This has been recognised by some countries – notably Swaziland, Guatemala and Nicaragua – but many others have yet to follow.” Says Aaron Benvot, Director of UNSECO's Global Education Monitoring report.

Low government investment in education resources means that parents often have to pay for their children's learning materials creating more barriers for disadvantaged students. According to the report learning resources average over a third of total household spending on education in 12 African countries. For financially disadvantaged families this cost can rise to over half the cost of education being spent on reading materials.

“Forcing families to pay for their children’s’ textbooks is unacceptable. We must learn from health, and set up a new system so that textbooks can move cheaply and effectively from a printing house to school and into the hands of children,”  says Benvot.

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