Brought to Book Rental

Society of St. Vincent de Paul | Help Us Cut the cost of school books

Education is a right, and it’s supposed to be free. But Ireland is one of only a few European countries to make even the poorest pay for books. It’s a shocking  burden on hard-pressed families.

This campaign sticks in my craw. St. Vincent de Paul operates in Northern Ireland so it knows very well that parents of children there do not pay for schoolbooks. This has been the case for as long as I can remember.

It is indeed true that parents, especially poor parents, are being relentlessly exploited by the demands that they pay for endless production of new educational materials.

However, for St. Vincent de Paul to advocate a ‘book rental scheme’, such as the one in most European countries, whilst ignoring the reality on its doorstep, is hard to comprehend. It is as though certain considerations that might issue during a normal functioning of democratic politcs -for example, why can’t this be paid for out of direct and progressive taxation?- were excluded ex ante.

For those who work with St. Vincent de Paul, there may be certain realities even closer to home, in terms of power and influence of certain groups and institutions, that prevent them from raising such questions. Or maybe not. Maybe that sort of democratic approach is out of the question because, well, reality is shaped in such a way that it doesn’t even occur to people.


2 Responses to “Brought to Book Rental”

  1. 1 John Joseph McDermott June 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    The school books racket-and it is nothing but a racket- has been simmering for the past 30 years and from time to time it boils over-and nothing is ever done.The publishers who benefit so handsomely from this scam must be very well connected with the political parties who have tolerated it for so long.
    Perhaps the new era of serious hardship will stimulate the mothers who have their pockets picked every year.
    Every book could be put on a Kindle device tomorrow or better still on an ipad tablet -and that would bring the racket too a halt; and the long exploited school kids would also have a computer to play around with and acquire some useful skills besides!
    If the books are not printed in China for next to nothing-and are printed in Ireland, we will no doubt hear crocodile cries and tears from the vested interests about the loss of a few dozen people employed in their printing-if somebody eventually does brings this country into the 21st Century!

  2. 2 Alan Rouge June 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    “there may be certain realities even closer to home, in terms of power and influence of certain groups and institutions, that prevent them from raising such questions”

    I think you’re on to something here Hugh.

    Many of these civil society organizations and NGOs share a common attitude to campaigning. It seems to be one of “lets not scare the horses, best to just ask very nicely for a few crumbs here and there”. There are exceptions obviously where groups have mobilized and got militant and creative but they seem few and far between.

    “We’re meeting with the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn in a few weeks time to argue our case”

    I wonder would Mr Minister Quinn, who of course has no difficulty providing for his sprog’s education, be so accommodating in meeting them to hear the case if they were arguing for free education for all paid for by progressive taxes as you (rightly) suggest.

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