Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Black Monday

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.


bonita said...

Lauri: So sorry to hear the economic crisis has spread to your household. It's the same over here. The big states that put an 'approved textbook list' are broke. CA, MI, FL, and NY won't be buying books. At all. Perhaps some individual private schools will have money for supplementary 'little books' but that's not enough for a publisher to undertake a project. Publishers are letting writers and editors go, that means more competition for me. Usually June and July are are slow. I've been slow (no work) since May. Luckily I refinanced my house and so I have a bit of cash, I"m hoping I can weather the storm. Hope you can do the same.

Lauri said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Bonita. I'm lucky since I have my husband's salary and most everything we have is paid off (house car etc.) My hope is that the books will be bought next year. Also, I'm lucky as I always have freelance work and I'm just about to start getting paid for new textbook work.

Thanks for reminding me that , once again, I should count my blessings.

Crossing fingers some work comes your way soon.

Elspeth Futcher said...

The ripples from this downturn in the economy are unavoidable. What disappointing news! However, they may get bought - just later - so there's still hope.

We've been fairly lucky (knocking on a piece of wood). No job losses and there is more than one income coming in.

You certainly have the right attitude and the word I'm hearing from economic forecasters is that the tide is turning. Let's all hope.


Gutsy Living said...

I read your positive post followed by your sad post about the educational system and your textbooks. I can't believe that education is always cut first: the future of the world. It breaks my heart that we make it either so costly or cut hours of teaching for financial reasons. So Sad. I hope things turn around for your textbooks.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Here in California we are in the same boat. I keep hearing that the economy is turning around but don't see the signs, at least not around here!

I'm sorry for the children, and I'm sorry for you. Let's hope the economic crisis does heal a bit, for everyone's sake.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear this and the unfortunate effects it has on you. It is insane that anything related to education ends up on the chopping block to fix a budget. I'm sending positive energy your way and will speak words of life over this situation.

Tania Hershman said...

I'm really sorry to hear this, lauri, that's pretty crappy. To try and look on the positive side a little, perhaps - without being cheesy - you posted such a positive blog the other day, then yesterday was crap, something fabulous may be just around the corner, you never know. "This too shall pass" is the phrase I try and keep in my head at all times. My week started very badly on the personal front and has got much better, I wouldn't have thought it. Wish it for you too.

Anonymous said...

Education is always the first to go. I was set to work on changes to the state English curriculum which would have given me steady work for the next 3 months, but the project was axed last week. I was really relying on the money. I will admit to being tired of the uncertainty in the marketplace at the moment.

I hope the Ministry changes its mind and realises the value of your textbooks. Such a shame.

daoine said...

That's awful news. I'm sorry it also affects you so personally Lauri.

Lauri said...

I finally can post a comment on my own blog. My blog was actually broken all week. I could make posts but not see them, I could only see them from other people's links it was very strange.

Anyway- thanks for all of your hopeful and empathetic words guys, they mean a lot. It has been a crap week BUT my three bad things are over now I'm waiting for good. The first was me accidentally fixing my blog.

My daughter made me see that if the Ministry buys my books next year (which is likely) then I will get a big cheque this year and next year both instead of one very big cheque. She is right of course. (How did she get so clever?)That's actually better in a way for me as big money makes me go goo-goo.

Selma sorry to hear that your project was withdrawn too. Education has been hard hit everywhere it seems. This is actually the second project I've lost. The first was a new lifeskill radio drama I was suppose to write.

Tania- glad your week took a turn and is looking up too.

Browngirl- thanks for the positive energy sent my way!