The continuous closure of schools in Ghana except for final years students who have been recalled mainly to prepare for their exams, is taking a toll on businesses that are linked to the existence of educational institutions.
Aside from food vendors and others affected by this continuous closure, one group that has been hit is those who are into the sale of books and stationery.
The bulk sale of books and stationery is mostly seasonal, because such materials are largely patronized in bulk when schools reopen or are in session.
Some bookshop operators who spoke to Citi Business News in the Central Business District of Accra, say although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them due to the closure of many schools, their problems started long before the pandemic due to other factors locally.
“There came a time where they [government], said they were changing the curriculum and here lies the case where the change of curriculum came without books. And so, another problem emerged where the demand for the books was created, but whenever the people come, they don’t get the books. Our sales gradually began to drop,” Seth Addo, a Sales Executive at Top Man Books told Citi Business News.
Seth added that, they were “anticipating that government will bring its own books to compliment the change of curriculum since last academic year, but that didn’t happen. The publishers also tried to bring some books but they were not backed by the government. They gave reasons that, it was not up to date and so we should wait but we’ve been waiting until now.”
Isaac Adu, a Sales Executive at Rois Enterprise, also said “This time our sales didn’t come in as we were supposed to get it because government changed the text books and as a result, no new text books came, and most of the text books which came from publishers were unapproved. So, patronage was low, parents came looking for books to buy, but couldn’t get any, and that has really affected our sales including that of stationery because usually parents buy the text books alongside the stationery for their wards”.
The government’s three-week partial lock-down in March to curtail the spread of COVID-19, and the subsequent closure of schools, also meant that no books or stationery items were needed as much.
“Now that schools have reopened partially, which means only the final year students and gold track second year students are in school, nothing has changed. Sometimes in a day, you can be here and barely sell to 50 people, and that is less than 20 percent of what our usual sale was supposed to look like”.
“Business here is basically seasonal, the season starts from August-September through to October, and during this time, business booms. Parents and students come along to buy a lot. But after the season, which starts from January, February, then the market starts going down. When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, it came along with a lockdown so we were all at home with no business at all until we began to reopen after government eased the restrictions but business has not stabilized” Isaac bemoaned.
Unlike some other business operators Citi Business News has interacted with in the past, owners of these bookshops have applied for government’s GHS 1billion Coronavirus Alleviation Program Support Scheme, which seeks to assist SMEs affected by the pandemic to stay in business. They’re however concerned about how long it is taking for the loan to be disbursed.
“We have applied but nothing has come yet, so we are looking forward to government to start disbursing them,” Seth added.
And for Isaac, the sooner the money comes the better it will be for their businesses which seem to be hanging by a thread.
“The money hasn’t come, but once it has been promised we believe that it will come; but how soon that will be, we can’t tell. We have formalized all the procedures we were supposed to go through. We only heard a few people have received theirs as to how much they were given that was not disclosed. I know how much I have applied for, but I don’t know whether I will be given all that or it will be reduced to some amount, but we are hoping that it comes soon enough, because it will help us a lot” Isaac said.