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No textbook state’s primary concern

What would you do if you were asked to learn by rote and from the blackboard alone? Change school, perhaps.

But, several thousand underprivileged children studying in government primary schools in Ranchi and elsewhere have little choice in the absence of textbooks, which the Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan says it cannot give before October.

Students of Classes I to III are the worst affected because they are being compelled to make do without books for various subjects like social science, history, English and Hindi since the academic session began in April.

They are burdened with notebooks to copy course content from blackboards.

“New printed textbooks haven’t arrived and we are unable to let children borrow textbooks from seniors because those have missing pages or are not revised editions. Hence, teachers have been directed to prepare chapter-wise notes and write them on blackboards for students to copy,” said Sudesh Kumar Ekka, principal of the primary school in Kadru, which has 117 pupils on its rolls.

“Most children have lost interest in school. It is not easy for them to comprehend chapters in class unless they can study the same at home,” Ekka pointed to dropping attendance.

Asha Kumari, the in-charge of the government middle school (Classes I-VIII) in Karamtoli, couldn’t agree more. Of the school’s 376 students, 150 study in Class I to III. “We are struggling to complete the syllabus through blackboard teaching. I have asked teachers to circulate their own copies of textbooks among students. Let’s see if this method works,” she said.

Principal of the Jagannathpur middle school Poonam Sahay said of their total student strength of 950, more than 300 first, second and third graders had no textbooks. “We have borrowed some books from Learning Link Foundation (a voluntary organisation),” Sahay added.

Students are understandably disenchanted.

Hum kabhi-kabhi school aate hai. Kitab nahi hai to ma mana karti hai (I attend school infrequently. My mother doesn’t want me to come to school because I have no textbook,” said Karamtoli cradle third grader Bani Mahto.

Schools conceded that they had no idea when the textbooks might come although they had word from the government that a tender had been finalised.

JEPC officials claimed the books would be printed and supplied by the month of September.

The council had floated the tender to print and supply textbooks for Classes I to VIII on April 21 and bids were invited on May 6. However, the tender had to be cancelled because no bidder met technical and financial conditions.

A fresh one was floated in the second last week of May. Six bidders out of 11 were selected on June 16 to print and supply the textbooks.

Pramod Kumar Sinha, a specialist in the monitoring, research and evaluation wing of JEPC, said a 90-day deadline had been given to the selected agencies. “The books are being printed and will be distributed among 50 lakh students (Classes I-VIII) across 40,000 government schools in the state.”

Sinha was confident textbooks would be distributed by September-end. “Last time, books were supplied in January for the academic session in April. This year, we were delayed because of the tender process,” he added.