Printing ballot papers to affect textbooks availability

February 28, 2017 01:00 AM Bishnu Prasad Aryal

Only 50 percent school textbooks printed to date
KATHMANDU, Feb 28: The government's preparations to hold local elections will affect the printing of school textbooks, causing a crisis for millions of students.

Janak Education Materials Center (JEMC), the publishing house owned by the state, prints some 20 million textbooks for Grades 6 to 10, while private publishers print 17.2 million textbooks for Grades 1 to 5. Every year, JEMC fails to print the school textbooks on time. “The shortage of textbooks will become aggravated, affecting the teaching and learning of millions of students,” said officials.

The government has already authorized JEMC to print 15 million ballot papers, at a cost of about Rs 40 million, for the local elections scheduled for May 14. “We have received a letter from the government to print 15 million ballot papers for the elections,” said Kapil Dev Pokhrel, director at JEMC. “We are ready to print the ballot papers. The printing will begin after two weeks,” he added.

Only one month remains for the beginning of the new academic session in schools across the country, but the government has not printed the required numbers of textbooks yet. Out of 20 million textbooks required for Grades 6-10, 10.05 million have been printed, according to JEMC. “JEMC will publish 5 million textbooks while Sajha Prakashan has assured us it will print 3 million. We have started the bidding process for the printing of 1.5 million textbooks,” said Pokhrel. “All remaining textbooks will be published within 45 days,” he claimed.

“The printing of textbooks will certainly be affected because of the need to print ballot papers,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, member of the Curriculum Management and Monitoring Central Committee (CMMCC) and president of Guardians Association Nepal. “Students will be deprived of textbooks this time also,” he added.

There are some 7.5 million students in public and private schools across the country. Lack of textbooks  hampered teaching and learning at public schools in previous years also.

School textbooks should be published at least a month before the beginning of the new academic year for these to be accessible to the districts. The new academic session began on February 12 in Manang, Mustang, Jumla, Humla and Dolpa districts although it begins in the rest of the country from April 14 only . 
  
Devi Ram Aryal, an official at DoE, said that private publishers have not yet submitted the status of textbook printing  at their establishments. “However, the required number of textbooks for the five Himalayan districts have already been supplied,” he said, citing claims by the private publishers.

“They have assured us they will print all the textbooks before the beginning of the new academic session.”

In previous years, the government used to begin the printing of school textbooks from mid-July for the upcoming academic year, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE). However, it began the printing process only  from October for the coming academic year. 

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