Class II students pore over their new books in Ranchi on Monday. (Prashant Mitra)
Over five lakh students of Classes I and II have received new sets of textbooks, around four months after the current academic session started this April, much to the relief of children and teachers alike at over 40,000 government primary and middle schools across Jharkhand.
As Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) failed to print books on time for distribution free of cost under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), students had been forced to make do with old and torn books borrowed from older children who had been promoted to the upper classes.
Now, they are happy with their new books.
Raghav Tirkey, a Class II student of Government Middle School, Karamtoli, expressed his joy. “Itne din baad humlog ko naya kitab mila hai (After so many days, we got new books),” he said. The new books reached his school four days ago, Raghav added.
Asha Kumari, headmistress of the Karamtoli school, said the wait had ultimately ended.
“Our Classes I and II children have received the textbooks, and the others will get theirs soon,” she said, adding that she hoped her students would now take more interest in their studies.
Generally, the process of floating tenders for printing textbooks starts in October and the schools receive the newly printed study materials by January next year.
So, students get the new books at the very beginning of the academic season in April.
But, this time the process started late in January this year. The first two tenders drew a blank with JEPC rejecting most of the bidders on technical grounds.
Ultimately, JEPC selected six out of the 11 bidders for publishing books following a fresh tender in May.
Moreover, earlier, the state council gave away free books to students between Classes I and V only.
This year, it announced it would give free books to students till Class VIII. It meant that the council had to make arrangements for books for over 50 lakh students in Jharkhand, putting a huge financial burden on the exchequer. Under norms, the state needs to shell out 25 per cent of the cost incurred in the centrally sponsored SSA scheme.
JECP officials have said that books of Classes III-VIII would be ready “very soon” and students would get them within two months.