KATHMANDU, April 13: Like in the previous years, the government has failed to supply school textbooks to the districts on time this year too. According to the rules, the textbooks should have been delivered to the districts before April 1.
The government has announced to make the enrollment campaign at public schools successful this year, but the textbooks are yet to be supplied to all schools and districts for the new academic year beginning April 14.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), textbooks should be supplied to the districts two weeks before and to the schools one week before the beginning of the new academic session. After failing to meet these deadlines, the government ordered the publishers to supply the textbooks to the districts by April 7. After the books did not reach the districts even by April 7, the Department of Education (DoE) called a meeting of the stakeholders on April 9.
Babu Ram Paudel, director general of the DoE, warned the publishers of action if the books were not supplied immediately, according to DoE sources.
The state-owned Janak Education Materials Center (JEMC) has been authorized to print 19.2 million copies of textbooks for Grades 6 to 10 while private publishers have been allowed to print 16.5 million copies of textbooks for Grades 1 to 5.
According to the JEMC, it had printed 17.7 million copies of textbooks by April 9 while private publishers had printed 13.5 million copies of textbooks. "We have already dispatched 80 percent of the books printed to the districts," said Mahesh Timilsina, general manager of JEMC, the main distributor of school textbooks. "More than 80 percent of textbooks have been purchased by book sellers in the hilly districts and only about 60 percent in Tarai districts," he claimed, adding that the government has done far better this year than in the past years.
The school textbooks are supplied to the regional distributors and book sellers in the districts. Then the schools buy the textbooks and distribute them to the students free of cost. The government in its fiscal budget and programs allocated Rs 2 .22 billion for buying school textbooks and distributing them to the students free of cost in the current fiscal year, according to the MoEST.
However, the students will definitely not get the textbooks on time this year too, said Keshav Puri, president of the Guardians' Association Nepal. "Thousands of copies of textbooks are yet to be printed while the books printed have not been supplied to the schools even on the eve of the new academic session," Puri added, "It is a negligence of the government as usual."
The budget allocated for buying the textbooks was released to the local bodies in July-August, 2017, according to the DoE. The local bodies should transfer the budget to the schools to buy the textbooks on the basis of the number of students they have.
However, many local bodies are yet to transfer the budget to the schools, according to the MoE. "We are collecting reports about budget release and distribution of textbooks in the schools from the districts," said Devi Ram Aryal, deputy director at the DoE. "The local bodies could not fulfill their responsibility smoothly this year because it was the first time the local bodies were given budget to buy the textbooks for public schools."
There are 5,590,631 students from Grades 1 to 10 in public schools across the country, according to the DoE. The government had allocated Rs 1.65 billion for the printing of school textbooks this year.