KATHMANDU, Dec 20: The students of public schools across the country are likely to face a shortage of textbooks this year again owing to the government’s dilly-dallying in publishing the books.
The state-owned printing house Janak Education Material Center (JEMC) and other private publishers have been printing the school textbooks since 2006. The JEMC was assigned to print the textbooks for grades 6 to 10 while private publishers were assigned to print the textbooks for grades 1 to 5.
However, the government has decided to allow JEMC to print the textbooks of grades 1 to 10.
Interestingly all the governments since 2008 have failed to deliver the school textbooks to the students in time, according to the Guardians Association of Nepal (GAN).
“We have records of students being deprived of school textbooks in time since 2008 during the start of the academic session,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, the founding president of GAN.
The new academic session in 72 districts begins from April 14 while it begins from March 29 in five Himalayan districts—Humla, Jumla, Dolpa, Manang and Mustang. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), the textbooks should have been distributed by March 28 to the districts and subsequently to the schools by April 13.
“How can the government distribute the school textbooks in time when the private publishers are yet to begin printing textbooks? It is impossible to supply textbooks to the students in time this year again,” said Bhandari.
According to the Federation of Nepal Printers’ Association, the government should have selected private publishers before December 16. However, it published a notice only on December 18 calling for the private publishers to apply for pre-qualification for printing the textbooks, according to the MoEST. The government requires 40 million copies of school textbooks of grades 1 to 10 for the upcoming academic session.
Mahesh P Timilsina, general manager of JEMC, said that the JEMC will print a total of 22.5 million textbooks for the next session while the remaining 17.5 million copies will be printed by private publishers.
“We have already printed a total of 13 million copies of textbooks including 1.5 million copies of textbooks for grades 1 to 5,” Timilsina claimed. “The textbooks will be available for students on time.”
However, Deepak Bhandari, a member of the private publishers, said that delivering school textbooks to the students in time is impossible this year. “The government published a 15-day notice for application only today. It needs another one week for sorting out the applications and another week for depositing security fund,” said Bhandari.
“It means we cannot begin printing textbooks before the last week of January,” Bhandari said.
In the past, the government used to begin the printing of school textbooks from mid-July for the next academic year, according to the MoEST.