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A gloomy start of new school year to many students as delay in free textbook delivery lingers

  • Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2022-01-23 02:06:50 BdST

It's been three weeks since the new school year has kicked off and for score of primary and secondary school students it's been a rough start as they have not got their free textbooks. A two-week closure of schools and colleges forced by the latest spike in coronavirus transmission has now fuelled their worries about getting the books.

The delay in getting the books will hurt their study even more, fear the students and parents. They think the government should have been more careful about timely delivery of the textbooks.

The National Curriculum and Textbook Board, or NCTB, hopes all textbooks will be distributed within a week. It said 9.4 million books were yet to be printed as of Wednesday.

The schools said they distributed the available books in phases to ensure physical distancing, and the rest of the books will be given out once they arrive.

The delivery of free textbooks to students of schools and colleges on New Year’s Day is now known as the textbook festival as it has become a tradition in Bangladesh after the Sheikh Hasina government launched the programme more than a decade ago.

Moghbazar’s Provati High School Stacks receives stacks of new books which will be handed over to students on the first day of the New Year, Dec 27, 2021. Photo: Kazi Salahuddin Razu

Moghbazar’s Provati High School Stacks receives stacks of new books which will be handed over to students on the first day of the New Year, Dec 27, 2021. Photo: Kazi Salahuddin Razu

In the past 12 years, the Awami League government distributed more than 4.01 billion textbooks among the students of primary and secondary levels free of charge.

The textbooks were distributed in phases at classes without much fanfare on the first day of last year and this year as well because of the pandemic.

This year, more than 41.72 million students are supposed to get over 347 million textbooks.

Timely delivery of the free textbooks was thrown into ‘uncertainty’ this time with the authorities and the printing presses blaming each other for a delay in calling tender.

The printers say the NCTB delayed calling tender and repeated the process, which left them with very little time to finish their job.

The NCTB officials acknowledged the delay in the tender process, but said the printing presses had increased the costs through syndication, forcing the authorities to float the tender again.

Provati High School officials sort out new books which will be handed over to students on the first day of the New Year, Dec 27, 2021. Photo: Kazi Salahuddin Razu

Provati High School officials sort out new books which will be handed over to students on the first day of the New Year, Dec 27, 2021. Photo: Kazi Salahuddin Razu

Education Minister Dipu Moni hoped the students would get the books by the first week of January, but many students were yet to get four to five books in some schools on Thursday.

Some students did not receive any book at all, forcing the schools to delay the start of classes.

Pritilata Pratiswik, a student of class nine at Saleha School and College in Hazaribagh, has not received the English for Today and physics books. “No one in my class has got textbooks of these subjects, so we're not reading them. The teachers are giving us lessons on other subjects. We don’t know whether we'll get these or when. Some of us have collected these books and are reading them.”

His father Hasan Ahmed thinks the loss in the children’s learning amid the pandemic will only get worse due to the books arriving so late.

“What will become of their study if it [delay] happens to all the classes? They're yet to get three books. Physics is a new subject to them. A week’s delay may be tolerable, but a month is passing. We still don’t know when they will get the books.”

A student receives her new textbooks from a teacher at Kamrunnesa Government Girls’ High School in Dhaka’s Tikatuli on New Year’s Day on Saturday, Jan 1, 2022. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

“The government should have been more serious about the matter because the pandemic has already caused learning loss.”

At South Point School and College’s Malibagh branch, the students of English version class seven are waiting for four out of 14 textbooks. “The teachers have started online classes with the old books,” said Noorjahan Islam, the parent of a student.

The students of classes seven to nine did not get all the textbooks at Monipur High School and College, Adarsha High School, Mirpur Cantonment Public School and College, MDC Model Institute, and Little Flowers Preparatory School.

A student of English version class nine at Monipur school said they only got the books of ICT and physical education. “Some have collected old books. I’ve downloaded some pages from the internet. I may have to buy the books if I don’t get them this month.”

Tasnia Haque, a Bangla version student of the same class at the school, said she was short on the books of five subjects. “Now the schools are closed. I don’t know when we will get our books.”

Arshia Ayat Mortuza, a class two student of Mirpur Cantonment Public School and College, did not a single book. Her sister Priyonti Ariya of class seven was waiting for the home economics book.

“The children eagerly wait for new books. She [Arshia] might be happy even if she got only one book. But that did not happen. None in her class got a book,” said Arshia and Priyonti’s mother Asmuna Mortuza. “I collected the old books. She's reading those now.”

Shamsul Alam, principal of South Point school’s Malibagh branch, said they were distributing the books whenever they were made available.

Nure Alam, headmaster of Adarsha school, said the authorities had told them the rest of the books would arrive shortly.

Md Mashiuzzaman, chairman of the NCTB, said the problem surfaced after some printing presses failed to deliver the books in time.

“The deadline is ending on Jan 27. The presses will be fined if make a delivey beyond the date. So, we hope the students will get all the books by next week.”

Some of the printing presses were in financial trouble while some others could not work due to a lack of papers when paper mills were closed for a week, according to him.