On the bustling streets of Bandra, a suburb in Mumbai, students are flocking to a tiny bookstore tucked away next to a McDonald’s. The shelves are packed with books ranging from bestsellers to textbooks to obscure titles. Prices range from 80 rupees (R14.80) to 650 rupees (R121.40). In the state of Maharashtra, there is 6% value-added tax (VAT) on books and no tax on educational books. This has made learning more accessible. It is an impressive feat, considering that India has 315-million students compared with about 1-million in SA. In SA, the 14% VAT applies across the board, including textbooks. For some students, a year’s worth of textbooks could cost about R6,000, a hefty price when many students can barely afford a year’s fees. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which provides study loans to academically able but financially needy students, provides a R5,000 textbook stipend. Depending on the course, this isn’t always enough. Pricey textbooks are part of the la...

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