“If the printing does not begin by mid-September, many school students will be deprived of textbooks when the academic year starts mid-April.”
KATHMANDU, Sept 5: Despite repeated pledges by the Ministry of Education to deliver school textbooks, it has failed to do so year after year. Unfortunately, there are already signs that schoolchildren may again have to grapple with textbook shortages as they enter a new academic session this year.
Although the government initiated the process of printing textbooks by mid-July in the previous years, it is yet to do so for the academic session that begins from mid-April of the coming fiscal year, according to some officials at the Ministry of Education (MoE).
“If the printing does not begin by mid-September, many school students will be deprived of textbooks when the academic year starts on mid-April,” they added.
They attributed the delay in printing textbooks to government indecision in fixing the printing charges.
The government should first determine the rate of printing textbooks, according to the sources. “The ministry is yet to approve the files regarding the printing rates,” they said.
Janak Education Material Center (JEMC) is the government body responsible for publishing textbooks in the country. The JEMC was assigned to print a total of 17,753,218 units of textbooks for grades VI to X this year.
There are around 6 million students enrolled in public schools across the country.
The government has failed to fix the ceiling for book printing charges, said Suprabhat Bhandari, president of the Guardians' Association Nepal, which is represented in the committee that decides book printing rates.
“It's hard to understand why the government is delaying its decision on the rate of printing. This will hamper the studies next year,” said Bhandari, who is also a member of the Department of Education's central monitoring committee, formed to keep an eye on fees, school conditions, requirements and various activities of the schools.
The state-owned Janak Education Material Center (JEMC) and the private publishers have proposed to double the book printing charges. The JEMC and the private publishers publish the books of public and private schools, respectively.
The representatives of JEMC and private publishers had proposed doubling the charges of printing textbooks in a meeting held at the Curriculum Development Center (CDC) about a month ago, according to the CDC officials.
The present rate of book printing is 30 paisa per page for single color. The JEMC, which has been printing the books at the cost of 30 paisa per page, proposed 57 paisa per page for single color for 5,000 copies and 54 paisa per page for more than 5,000 copies.
Likewise, they have sought 65 paisa per page for two colors and 78 paisa per page for multi-color books, according to the sources.
The private publishers have proposed 80 paisa per page for single color, Rs 1.00 per page for two colors, and Rs 1.25 per page for multi-color books.
Five years ago, the price determining committee had fixed 36 paisa per page for printing textbooks. However, it could not be implemented due to widespread objection from the stakeholders.
The stakeholders objected to the proposal of the JEMC and private publishers asked them to furnish the reasons for increasing the charges for printing the books. However, they could not justify the reason and demanded time to explain about hiking the printing charges.
“We are in the process of resolving the issue,” said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesman at the MoE. “It will be sorted out soon.”
He, however, could not be specific about the timeframe on resolving the issue.