Parents complain shortage of textbooks and laptops is blighting students, while staff blames Education Minister’s poor planning

With the new school year only three weeks old, parents and teachers – as well as students, themselves – are said to be angry and frustrated at the chaos reportedly created by the Ministry of Education.

According to both parents and teachers, there is a severe shortage of textbooks and a dearth of laptops in the government-secondary schools, and the situation is having a negative effect – especially on First Formers.

Sources in the Ministry tell REAL News that, with the distribution of E-books in earlier years, hard copies of textbooks had been routed to the private secondary schools. So now that the E-book scheme has been abandoned, the shortage of texts in the government schools is acute.

To make matters even more complicated for students, the source says, teachers refuse to use the content from the discarded E-books – “for whatever reason” – and have reverted to the “chalk and talk” method of instruction.

Incoming First-Formers are feeling the worst of the situation, a parent informs our News Room. Most of these students have neither textbooks nor laptops, a father says – which is making his

son’s transition from primary to secondary school “more difficult than it’s supposed to be.”

Investigations into the situation reveal that, while new laptops were sourced, their purchase and distribution by the donor could not be completed before the new school year opened. And at this time, reportedly, the Board of Education (BoE) has no idea when these devices will be delivered.

Other parents tell REAL News they were required to turn in their children’s laptops during the summer, so they could be upgraded by the BoE. However, these devices have not been re-issued to the students “even though we expected to get them before school reopened,” a mother of two complains.

She adds that she knows other parents who paid for repairs or replacement of damaged laptops – and their children, too, are still without the devices, she claims. “Out of pocket and out of laptop, too,” is how she describes the situation.

Meanwhile, she says, there are no explanations or answers from either BoE or Ministry of Education officials, and the principals can offer only “empty apologies.”

A Ministry source believes that parents need to “start making noise – especially after the children missed so much school during COVID.”

She is critical, too, of her boss, Education Minister Daryl Matthew, and says he must take responsibility for the lack of planning now in evidence. “It seems like he wants to repeat the poor academic performance we saw at CSEC this year,” she says.

A retired principal is expressing the same opinion, and she points to the recent review of the Caribbean nations’ education systems, noting that “poor Antigua and Barbuda didn’t even make it near the Top 10.”