The Paradoxical Tale of Textbooks

Textbooks are supposed to be essential tools for learning and education. They are supposed to provide students with comprehensive and accurate information, guidance, and exercises on various subjects and topics. They are supposed to enhance the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning. However, many students in Nigeria are questioning the value and necessity of textbooks, especially in the first semester of their academic programs. They are expressing their frustration and dissatisfaction with the high cost and compulsory acquisition of textbooks, which they claim are useless and irrelevant to their courses and interests. In this article, I will argue that textbooks are indeed a waste of money and time for most students and that there are better and cheaper alternatives available for learning and education.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the average cost of textbooks for a first-year student in Nigeria is about N50,000, which is equivalent to more than half of the minimum wage in the country. Moreover, many students are required to buy textbooks that are not even used or recommended by their lecturers, or that are outdated and inaccurate. Some students have reported that they have bought textbooks that have never been opened or read throughout the semester, or that have been replaced by newer editions or online materials. This situation is not only unfair and unjust but also wasteful and inefficient. These descriptions perfectly fit into the scenario that occurred last semester.

Throughout the first semester, there was a ‘pandemic’ of agitation and unnecessary stress over the GES textbooks and the CGS registration requirements. The Center for General Studies countlessly stressed the need to purchase all their textbooks for a hitch-free examination as they extensively indicated that no student would be allowed to write the exams without providing the duly signed or stamped copy of receipts for each of the textbooks associated with the course the student was taking. This information threw a lot of students especially the freshmen into an uproar. Students were drawn into devising many means to get the receipts. Some purchased the textbooks in the final moments before the exams commenced(which meant they had little or no usefulness to them). The SUG intervened at a point after receiving several complaints and calls for intervention and they assured the students of safety even without the receipts. At the end of the day, these exams went by so uneventfully that everyone was blaming themselves for even being hyped up in the first instance or buying the textbooks. Immediately after the exams, students expressed disappointment over the purchase of the textbook and started making ridiculous offers to others to purchase the textbook.

Here is what Tomi from WEM thinks: “The GES textbooks were too costly for a start, if they were priced at something like #1500 maybe I’d have considered buying them even at the beginning of the semester. Still, they were not explanatory enough and too boring to the eyes. I feel like we were extorted. Other schools don’t make the GES textbooks compulsory.”

A techite, Richard, completely agrees with Tomi: “I had all these textbooks because I heard of this since so I tried my best to get it from seniors. But it’s quite disappointing that they are after the money and the receipts and don’t even care if we really studied the text because they only asked for evidence of payment not evidence of possession, and that is very bad.”

James argues that the textbooks were quite useful to him though: “Yeah. The GES receipts were what was important, we know but the French textbook which was the only one I got eventually was useful and I don’t think I wasted my time getting it at the end of the day.”

A very frustrated Elizabeth in Education is disappointed with herself for even budging: “I was scared. The first exams I would ever write in UI was GES and one department was telling me I couldn’t write it because I don’t have their textbooks. I literally ran to the bookshop three times a day before the exam from Queens Hall just to get the textbook and especially the receipts only to get to DLC the next day and nobody asked me for any receipt. It’s really sad. I wan sell by the way, if you get buyer.

Someone who chooses to be anonymous completely agrees with me: “Textbooks are not ever meant to be compulsory. To me, there are better ways of learning than staring at a piece by some hungry authors and claiming I’m studying. They are just supposed to be an added luxury for those that can afford them. I understand that some things are better learnt by having the textbook physically but that doesn’t apply to everyone. If you can afford it, get it, if you can’t all the best not that it should be compulsory for taking an exam when you’re not even sure I read it.”

Israel is indifferent, kind of the way I was too: “Actually, I was never bothered. It was as though I knew it would eventually turn out like that. The Students Union also assured us of exam safety but that wasn’t even why I was calm. Even if they later used the textbook receipts, I knew I was still going to take the exam either by guise or by force. I had made arrangements with men I trusted.”

Many more people agree with this general ideology and some are discouraged basically because of what turned out at the end of the first semester as regards the GES textbooks and purchase. 

This doesn’t only apply to GES textbooks, neither does it apply only to the University of Ibadan. Students are out there being ‘extorted’ for what they don’t even know how to use and the textbooks eventually end up under a bed or receiving dust on a shelf without being opened after a name has been written. 

In conclusion, the issue of textbook affordability is a complex and multifaceted one that affects students, faculty, publishers, and society at large. There is no simple or universal solution to this problem, but there are some promising alternatives that can reduce the financial burden on students and increase their access to quality educational materials. These alternatives include open educational resources, affordable course content, digital textbooks, and rental or sharing programs. However, these options also come with some challenges and limitations, such as quality assurance, academic freedom, technological barriers, and legal issues. Therefore, it is important for all stakeholders to collaborate and communicate effectively to find the best balance between cost and quality, and to ensure that students have the opportunity to succeed in their academic endeavours without compromising their financial well-being.

Melody Olajide

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *