KATHMANDU, April 13: At a time when government ministers including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel are campaigning for school enrollment accepting guardianship of a few students, complete sets of school textbooks are yet to be provided to the students even in the Kathmandu Valley.
Keshav Puri, president of the Guardians' Association Nepal, reached Mahendra Bhrikuti Secondary School, Lalitpur, three days ago to enroll a student. After admission, he was surprised to learn that the school could not provide a complete set of textbooks. "After admission, the school provided only five books out of a set of seven books," said Giri.
He accused the government of being busy in publicity campaigns rather than improving the quality of public schools. "The government is yet to seriously think about improving the education system. It just enjoys cheap popularity rather than result-oriented actions," he said,"We have found that about 20 percent students are yet to get complete sets of books even in the Kathmandu Valley."
The school textbooks should have been supplied to the districts before April 1 as per the rules for the new academic session that began from April 14.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), school textbooks should be supplied to the districts two weeks before the beginning of the new academic session. Similarly, the textbooks should reach the schools a week ahead of the start of the new session.
According to the Department of Education (DoE), the state-owned Janak Education Materials Center (JEMC) has been authorized to print 19.2 million copies of textbooks of Grades 6 to 10 while private publishers have been allowed to print 16.5 million copies of textbooks of Grades 1 to 5.
The school textbooks were printed a few weeks after the set deadline and supplied to the regional distributors and book sellers in the districts, according to Devi Ram Aryal, deputy director of the DoE. "The schools should have bought the textbooks and distributed them to the enrolled students free of cost."
The government has allocated Rs 2 .22 billion for buying and distributing school textbooks to the students free of cost during the enrollment campaign which began from April 15, according to the MoEST. "The local bodies should have released the budget to the schools to buy the textbooks in time. It might be the fault of the local bodies in not doing so," said Aryal.
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 concerned to buy school textbooks on the basis of the number of students.
However, the students of Tarai region, mainly of Province 2, and some hilly districts are yet to get complete sets of textbooks even now, according to the GAN. "We have received complaints from many districts such as Doti, Jajarkot, Khotang, Saptari, Mahottari and Sarlahi," said Giri.
There are 5,590,631 students from Grades 1 to 10 in public schools across the country, according to the DoE. The government allocated Rs 1.65 billion for printing school textbooks this year.