Free textbooks still a distant dream

Publishers complain of higher printing costs

Adnan Lodhi May 27, 2023



Although the new academic year began in Punjab three months ago, yet the Punjab School Education Department failed to provide government schools with free textbooks, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The summer vacations in Punjab are starting from June 6 at public and private schools while students are tense due to unavailability of textbooks. The teaching community is also confused in connection with giving task of homework for summer vacations as students have no textbooks.
On the other hand, the Punjab School Education Department has advised all the chief executive officers to ensure books at the government schools and also assign homework to students for summer vacations. Private schools in Lahore and other districts of the province are engaged in assigning homework to their students, but the situation in around 50,000 government schools is different.
Non-availability of textbooks at thousands of government schools in the Punjab has become a serious issue when summer vacations are round the corner. The Punjab School Education Department issued a notification regarding summer vacations at the public and private schools of the Punjab and according to the notification all schools in the Punjab will be closed on June 6 for summer vacations. The notification also asked all the CEO’s of 36 districts to manage books and homework before the closure of schools. The situation at the schools of Punjab is that students at all districts are suffering due to non-availability of textbooks. This was the responsibility of the Punjab Curriculum Text Book Board to deliver textbooks at all the districts but the process of distribution of textbooks could not be completed.
"Three months have passed but the issue of non-availability of textbooks persists. This is the reason this year for the first time we mentioned in the official notification to manage textbooks as we were receiving complaints from all districts that there is shortage of textbooks. According to the complaints students in many districts did not receive English and science books. The process of distribution of books was started in the month of March this year, but it was not completed even after three months as the Punjab Curriculum and Text Book Board did not manage to publish books on time.
“ The production department of the Punjab Curriculum and Text Book Board was responsible to publish books but they have their own issues as the publishers were complaining of expensive paper prices in the market and also pointing out delay in receiving the manuscripts. In this situation only the poor students are suffering. The books of Class IX and X and Class VI to VIII are not available in schools, and the reason is that the Punjab Text Book Board did not deliver them,” said a senior official of the Punjab School Education Department. "Our kids who were waiting for free textbooks are now telling us a new story as according to them now school administration advised them to purchase textbooks from the market as they are not going to receive them from the School Education Department. We are poor people and rely on free textbooks and cannot afford to purchase expensive books, but the schools administration is asking us to purchase books from the market which we cannot afford,” said Munir Ahmad, father of a Class IX student. "It is an injustice with the poor students that they have not been given free textbooks. These textbooks are not even available in the market,” said president of the Punjab Teachers Union.


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