Not again

  • The state-supported publication house should roll up its sleeves
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Dec 30, 2015-

This is a story repeated year after year. Unfortunately, this year is no exception.  The Janak Shiksha Samagri Kendra (JSSK), the state-funded publication house with the sole authority to print the textbooks for public schools across the country, is all set to miss another printing deadline for the upcoming academic session that begins in mid-April. This means students, particularly from remote districts, will have to go to school and study the curriculum without a complete set of textbooks, at least in the initial months of the academic session. About 7.1 million students from some 29,000 public schools across the country receive free textbooks from the government, and many of these students are likely to be the most affected by the shortage in textbooks.  

With the new academic session less than four months away, JSSK has printed only about a fourth of its target of 18 million units of textbooks. Three months into the publication, it has prepared only five million units, more than half of which includes the stock from last year. Considering that a shortage was a distinct possibility given the history, Minister of Education, Giriraj Mani Pokharel, had last month directed JSSK to expedite the preparation for publishing textbooks. The minister had warned the organisation that failure to publish and distribute textbooks on time could lead to the printing contract being given to private companies. In fact, last year, the Ministry of Education authorised private publication houses to print the textbooks for grade one to five. However, JSSK is the sole publisher of textbooks for grade six to ten. Unfortunately, it has been unable to take advantage of the state granted monopoly, and the prospect of losing its share of the market to private players does not seem to have spurred it to perform.  

To be fair, JSSK has not received the printing paper required for publishing textbooks from its supplier, an Indian private company, which has supposedly delivered only 10 percent of the total 5,000 tonnes needed for this year. The delay on the part of the supplier, in turn, has partly been due to the larger problems the entire country is facing: the agitation in the Madhes, the unofficial Indian blockade and the fuel shortage. 

Thus, this is one more example of the cost of the delay in resolving the country’s political crisis. But since this is not the first time JSSK has failed to publish textbooks on time, it cannot be allowed to get away with the excuse of the current political problems for its continued failure. It should roll up its sleeves and start being efficient or should face the consequences of non-performance. The Ministry of Education should either ensure that the state monopoly gets its act together before students are made to suffer again or should look into alternatives. 

Published: 30-12-2015 09:24

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