After my post about the six things I'm happy about I think the gods wanted to punish my hubris. First thing Monday morning I got an email from my publisher saying that the government, thanks to this vile, hateful, economic crisis, has decided they cannot afford to purchase books for standards 1-5 (this is primary school grade 1-5). No books. At all.
This is sad in and of itself as it means children will have no books when schools open in January. Children at the lowest grades where everything is so important. The place where the foundation is built that will decide their future educational success. How do teachers teach without books?
The Ministry of Education is making chaotic decisions under financial duress and this is not the first of them. A few months ago they suddenly raised the points needed by form fives to get sponsorship to university from 36 to 40 and said that it would apply immediately. This meant children who thought that their position was secure were suddenly out in the cold. Before the month finished, they went back on their decision having given these young people a terrible fright about their future for no reason at all except poor leadership at the Ministry.
After this they announced that with immediate effect they would no longer give university students allowances over break. Again they've had to take the decision back when the students took the government to court. I feel pity for the civil servants working at the Ministry. They are the ones who must bare the brunt of this chaos not the ones at the top who create it. Education Minister Jacob Nkate seems to be immune from criticism.
For me personally this news is a disaster. For the first time I have five prescribed books for next year. Two of these will no longer be bought- at all. One of those Mmele and the Magic Bones, the one I had my best royalty deal on. The government chose them as prescribed books for standard five, but now they won't be bought. Seems to me to be reneging on a done deal, but apparently they don't see it that way. I was counting on that money. More importantly I was counting on the freedom that that money was going to give me. No more scratching away at freelancing making P200 here , P200 there. Fighting to get payment. Pushing all fiction aside trying to make enough money to survive.
I'm not sure what this means for the other books. Two are at primary one, at junior secondary. If they're slashing books so viciously I don't hold a lot of hope for the other titles. I can only cross fingers and hope that the others get bought and that the following year they go back and buy the ones that should have been bought this year.
I find it difficult today to get to work on a new textbook I'm starting for my publisher. I can't quite get the energy together for that. Futile seems to be the word filling my brain right now.
Despite the news that everything is turning around, this economic crisis is far from over. The ripple effects, I'm afraid, will be long lasting.