Textbook shortage puts the brakes on academics

Students from grades I to XII have been deprived of essential course material

Wisal Yousafzai May 20, 2024


While students studying in private schools have a host of resources available for seeking academic guidance, the children studying in public institutions have only their textbooks to turn to for securing good grades however, as a textbook shortage befalls schools in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), many parents are left grappling with the dimmed academic prospects of their children.

One such parent was Imtiaz Khan, a father of four, who shared his struggle to arrange books for all three of his daughters. “In our current times, people are already withdrawing their children from school due to financial constraints. How can parents afford to buy textbooks in such a scenario? Until or unless the government allocates free books to all the children, school education will continue to face disruptions,” complained Khan, who further revealed that some students were forced to study from old books given the urgency of the situation.

Muhammad Iqbal, a school teacher in Peshawar, sympathised with Khan’s resentment when he confirmed that the government’s decision to reduce the supply of free curriculum books by 50 per cent had left children, parents and teachers in a quandary. “20 per cent of children from grades one to two and 50 per cent of children from grades 6 to 12 have no books,” he added.

According to sources of The Express Tribune, the provincial government had reduced the textbook budget for the current academic year from Rs11 billion to Rs8 billion due to the ongoing financial crisis, resulting in the current shortage of textbooks which has engulfed areas like Chitral, Upper and Lower Dir, and Kohistan among many other districts of K-P.

“Almost every other day parents and teachers are clashing with each other over the textbook shortage, but neither are able to do anything about it. While some students are using books from the previous batches not all students can be provided books in such a way,” said Sikandar Khan, President of Tanzm-e-Asataza.

Umer Orakzai, an education and public policy expert shed light on the fact that the book shortage would only further reduce the literacy level in the province, which was already regrettable. “As per data from the Pakistan Education Statistics, the literacy level is reducing in K-P, with approximately 3.13 million children out of school in 2017 and 3.63 million out of school five years later in 2022. Moreover, the 50 per cent cut on the distribution of free textbooks would affect female students the most since financially strained parents in the province usually prefer to educate their sons over their daughters,” opined Orakzai.

“The impact of children not receiving free books from the K-P government can be significant. It could potentially limit their access to educational resources, hinder their ability to study effectively, and contribute to a widening educational gap between those who can afford books and those who cannot. Without access to textbooks, students may struggle to keep up with their studies, leading to lower academic performance and reduced educational attainment, all of which can heighten socio-economic inequalities and hinder the overall development of the affected children and communities,” explained Imran Takkar, a child’s rights activist.

“According to Article 25A of the constitution the government is under obligation to provide free education to all children aged five to 16 years. Earlier, textbooks for grade one to grade 12 students were free but now only 50 per cent of the deserving students are assigned course material,” seconded Advocate Fawad Afzal, who had highlighted the matter in a writ petition submitted to the Peshawar High Court.

In an attempt to inquire further on the matter, the Express Tribune tried reaching out to the Minster of Elementary and Secondary Education but he was not available to talk.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2024.


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