Learning loss feared as schoolchildren fail to get free textbooks

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PESHAWAR: As the new academic year in government schools of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa began on Monday, students were troubled by the failure of authorities to provide them with free textbooks, according to Dawn report.

Neither the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board has printed books nor are they available on the market, according to officials.

They told Dawn that usually, schoolchildren received free course books from the provincial government at the start of the academic year in April.

The officials said students would suffer learning loss in the event of any further delay in the provision of books.

A senior official of the elementary and secondary education department told Dawn that the KP Textbook Board would require one and a half months to print books and supply them to public sector schools if the government immediately released the required funds of Rs8 billion.

He said the government hadn’t given away a single penny to the textbook board for payment to private companies to print course books for schools.

The official said not only had the provincial government denied Rs8 billion funds required to print books for the academic year 2024-25, but it had also not cleared Rs10 billion dues over the last few years.

He said under the laid-down procedure, the provincial government had to pay printers in Oct 2023 for printing books, but authorities didn`t take the matter seriously.

The official said the books to be printed for the current academic year were to cost around Rs11 billion, but the amount was reduced to Rs8 billion by the provincial government following its decision, amid a financial crisis, to reduce the size of textbooks and provide half of the schoolchildren with old course books to save over Rs3 billion.

He said in line with the decision of the government, the education department had already directed headmasters of public sector schools in the province to utilise 50 per cent of the old books collected from students in grades 6-12.

The official said similarly, the students in grades 4-5 would use 20 per cent of the old books, while new books would be provided to the students of grade 3 and below.

Sources in the textbook board told Dawn that the board as well as the elementary and secondary education department had been requesting the finance department since October 2023 to release funds for printing books to prevent students from any trouble at the start of the academic year, but the latter didn`t care, and therefore, the students had to attend new classes without course books.

`Now, books are neither available with the textbook board nor on the market,` a school-child’s father told Dawn.

He wondered how students would have lessons without books.

`For the second consecutive year, authorities have failed to ensure the provision of free textbooks to schoolchildren on time. It is nothing but a callous act on their part,` he said.

A schoolteacher told Dawn that most of the books collected from students after their promotion to the next grade were in bad shape and therefore, they couldn`t be used.

`We felt embarrassed while giving away the `overused` books to the students, who accepted them halfheartedly,` he said.

The teacher said most students enrolled in government schools were too poor to afford book binding costs, damaging textbooks.

A senior official of the provincial textbook board told Dawn that incomplete bool(sets were dispatched to Malakand, Swabi, Hangu, Tank and Kohat districts.

He said the printing of books was under way and would take a few weeks for completion.

The official said the funding denial by the government delayed the printing of school books.

He said the textbook board published advertisements in newspapers several times for book printing contracts, as the owners of private printing companies were reluctant to participate in the bidding because the government was not giving away funds to the textbook board.

Minister for the elementary and secondary education department FaisalKhan Tarakaiwas not available for comments.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 16th April 2024.

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