Textbooks sans price tag being sent to mountain districts
KATHMANDU, Feb 7: Although the government this time seems to be meeting the target of providing new textbooks to all schools in the new academic session that begins mid-February in the mountainous areas of the country such as Karnali zone and Manang and Mustang districts, it has supplied the books without any price tag.
The government´s flash report shows that there are around 100,000 students in primary to secondary level in the five districts of Karnali, and Manang and Mustang districts. The government has been quick to print adequate books for the first time since it adopted the policy in 2007 to ensure new textbooks for all students.
Though the Textbook Rate Fixation Committee formed by the Ministry of Education on December 3 had endorsed the rate under three categories based on the quality of the paper and colors used, the Department of Education had revised the decision stating that the rate of textbooks of grade 1 to 10 would be hiked in the new session.
The committee had set 89 paisa (Re 0.89) per page for black and white books, Re 1 per page for books printed in two colors other than black and white and Rs 1.5 for multicolor page.
According to the officials at the Janak Education Material Centre (JEMC), the price tags were not published in the books following an agreement with the government to hike book price for the new academic session. The sole agency responsible for printing textbooks as per the government curriculum has readied around 100,000 sets of textbooks for the students of primary to secondary level.
"We have more than 10 million textbooks in stock which do not contain price tags," said Arjun Kunwar, Distribution Manager of the JEMC.
Stakeholders said the absence of price tag might increase the possibility of irregularities in selling the textbooks. The chairman of the Guardian Association of Nepal Suprabhat Bhandari said that the government has been sidelining the problem the students who are likely to face problem even after the books reach to their places. As per the government policy, the District Education Offices (DOE) has to purchase the books to distribute to the students free of cost.
"If everything goes as planned, the textbooks will reach to the students by the second week of the new session, but the challenge is how will the DEO and the schools purchase the books as there is no price tag," Bhandari said.
The Sajha Publication, which is responsible for distributing the JEMC textbooks, has transported 75 percent of books to Kalikot district of Karnali zone for the new session whereas other books have been kept at JEMC headquarters and Sajha´s distribution offices in Nepalgunj and Pokhara, said Kedar Khatiwada, Sajha´s marketing manager.
Sajha has bought the books meant for the seven districts from JEMC for Rs 30 million. "Following the recent snowfall in the mountain districts, we are waiting for the weather to improve to transport the books to Manang, Mustang, Jumla, Humla, Dolpa and Mugu," said Dipak Adhikari, the Sajha´s agent deployed at Nepalgunj.
The Sajha officials have said the books will reach the districts on time.
Meanwhile, the government officials have claimed that the Ministry of Education (MoE) would decide the price of the text books before the new session starts.
DoE Director Tek Narayan Pandey said the government would sell the books at the existing rates if new price is not fixed soon.
As per the students in the rest of the country, JEMC requires to print 19.5 million textbooks for an estimated 6.1 million students from grade one to ten by the second week of new session that starts mid-April.