With the academic session 2016-2017 all set to begin from Tuesday (tomorrow), students and parents are running to and fro between markets to buy textbooks, which are largely unavailable across the city.
People who have visited the Urdu bazaars in Saddar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Nazimabad have been complaining about shortage of books endorsed by schools. This becomes more problematic when teachers start giving homework from textbooks, which students cannot complete as they do not have the books.
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Sajid Khan, a father of two who visited Urdu Bazaar, Saddar, to buy the course books for his 12-year-old son complained about the unavailability of Urdu and Islamiat textbooks. "We buy used books when new ones are not available," he said. His son studies at Saint Patrick's High School.
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Another worried parent, Ramesh, visited Urdu bazaar with his three children to get books on a discounted price. "It is difficult to get the complete course from one bookshop because many do not have all the books," he complained. He also said that they have to visit the markets several times to get the complete course while teaching at schools continues.
"Schools have to continue their process of teaching," said Muhammad Kashif, who was looking for the Social Studies textbook with his sister. "The teachers keep on giving homework from the books but our children cannot complete their work due to unavailability of books in the market."
A helper at Qamar Kitab Ghar told The Express Tribune that Urdu, Islamiat and Social Studies books of the Sindh Text Book Board (STBB) are running short in the market while all others are available. "Mostly schools prefer Oxford and other publishers [for most subjects] and STBB books are only specified for Urdu and Islamiat," he added.
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The unavailability of books is likely to increase next week as parents head towards markets after schools reopen and begin searching for books.
"Parents tend to buy all the books and leave the ones that are not available," said a helper at a shop in Urdu Bazaar, Nazimabad.
According to Mrs Zaheer, who was buying course books from Urdu Bazaar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, books' unavailability is nothing new. She said parents have to visit the markets at least four times at the beginning of the new academic session.
"I have to buy courses for five children who study at Moon Star Academy," she said, adding that her children do not like used books, which is why she has to roam around the city and find new ones.
Noman Ali, who sells used books in Urdu Bazaar, Saddar, said the majority of customers prefer new books. However, he added, if the new ones are unavailable, they go for used books, which cost half.
"In my lifetime, it never happened that STBB books have not been in short supply in the market before the new academic session," said a middle-aged owner of a bookshop, Umair Iqbal. He added that while the STBB knows when the new academic session starts, nothing is done to make preparations.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2016.
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