As students are settling down for the academic year ahead, almost 65 lakh textbooks are yet to be printed for distribution to schools in the State.
A majority of these books, close to 55 lakh copies, are to be printed in the three government presses at Mannanthala, Shoranur, and Vazhoor. Another 10 lakh need to be printed at the Kerala Books and Publications Society (KBPS).
The order to print 2.45 crore textbooks needed at schools across the State was given to the KBPS in November 2014. Even so, the society could not handle the printing of such a large number of books. Finally, when the three government presses were roped in, it became clear that they did not possess the paper and the ink needed to print the multicolour textbooks. Eventually, the government had to issue a special order allowing the presses to purchase paper and ink at market rates (as opposed to a process of tendering) to print the books.
School teachers who spoke to The Hindu said a good portion of the problem of printing could have been completed if only the printing had been directly under the Department of Education.
“Here, neither the printing nor the distribution is under the department. It is time for the Education Department to operate three or four presses in the State so that textbooks can be printed simultaneously and speedily. Then, these books should be brought to the depots under each education district — there are 41 districts and 171 sub-districts — as was done years ago,” president of the Congress-affiliated GSTU T.S. Salim told The Hindu . Now, the printed books arrive by post to 3,319 school societies across the State.
“The KBPS is responsible not just for the printing, but also for ensuring that the books reach the school societies. It was not able to do this in the desired manner. There is no change in the textbooks for standards 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. But even these books could not be printed in time for the new academic year,” Mr. Salim added.