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.