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Education - November 27, 2023

Uncertainty over new textbooks on time

Printing stopped for lacking of money

Zarif Mahmud: Handing over new books to students on the first day of the year has become a tradition over the past few years. Although it has started falling apart since last year. Uncertainty has arisen whether the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) will be able to deliver the new books on time.
Out of a total of 31 crore new books, all primary level books are almost finished. NCTB is struggling to print books of class VI, VII, VIII and IX on time. The manuscripts of the two books of sixth-seventh have not yet been put to the press. The printing of eighth grade books has just started. It has not been possible to send the manuscripts of any of the ninth-class books to the printing press.
The Textbook Board says the concession is not available for book printing contracts. As a result, it was not possible to pay the printing press owners. Printing authorities are not able to buy paper. All in all, the printing of class 9 books has stopped due to lack of money. The printing of several other books of different categories is also closed for the same reason.
The owners and workers of the printing house said that NCTB signed a contract with a time limit of 50 days as per the rules for printing books. But this year (year 2023) there are only 37 days left. During this period, no printing house will be able to finish printing so many books. NCTB is in a state of limbo with book printing due to non-payment of tenders, work contracts, bills on time.

The leaders of the printing industry association are blaming the incompetence of the board chairman and officials for the uncertainty that has arisen regarding the timely printing of books. They complain that irregularities and corruption have increased in the textbook board. The board chairman and other officials are doing various things by breaking the rules of the tender schedule. They are giving importance to their choice in choosing book printing contract and company. To cover up their irregularities and incompetence, they are now showing ‘excuses’ like non-exemption and paper shortage.
According to NCTB sources, the number of students in 2024 academic year has been estimated at 3 crore 81 lakh 27 thousand 630 people. A total of 30 crore 70 lakh 83 thousand 517 books are being printed for them. 5 crore 38 lakh 3 thousand 423 copies of books are being printed for first, fourth and fifth class students. The number of second- and third-class books is 3 crore 36 lakh 1 thousand 274. 61 lakh 93 thousand 878 copies of books will be printed for pre-primary.
A total of 6 crore 45 lakh 48 thousand 308 copies are being printed for the sixth class, 4 crore 45 lakh 57 thousand copies for the seventh class, 5 crore 34 lakh 84 thousand 271 copies for the eighth class and 5 crore six lakh 84 thousand 573 copies for the ninth class. A total of two lakh five thousand 31 copies of books are being printed for the children of minority ethnic groups (written in five languages). Among other books, 5,752 copies of ‘Braille’ books will be printed.
It is known from some printing houses in Dhaka, Noakhali, Bogra that are working on book printing, that the contract for the work paper has been reached after the tender process of eighth class books last week. They got manuscripts of 8-9 books of class VIII. Just started printing them. However, NCTB has not yet been able to send the manuscripts of any class 9 books to the printing press. Apart from eighth-ninth, at least five books of different classes are still to be printed. Among them, the staff of the printing house have not yet received the manuscripts of history and social science books of class VI-VII.
Association of Printing Press Owners ‘Bangladesh Printing Industry Association’. A few leaders including the president and general secretary of the association kept an eye on the book printing activities of NCTB. They are also in regular contact with the printing house owners about the issues.
According to the leaders of the Printing Industry Association, about 15 crore books are still out of print. Out of this, about 9 crores are of eighth and ninth class. It will not be possible to complete the printing of so many books in December. NCTB will have to resort manipulation to hold book festival on January 1. Inaugurate the festival in some way by handing over books of three or four subjects to the students. Maybe the printing work will be completed in the first week of January. Then the books of the rest of the subjects can be given to the students in stages.

Owner of RR Printing and Packaging and General Secretary of Bangladesh Printing Industry Association Mohammad Zahurul Islam told, “The work contract of Class IX was not done properly. Manuscripts are far from available. Work on class VIII book has just started. Not all books will be available on the 1st. It does not seem possible to provide even the minimum books of class 9 to all the students.
He said, ‘Inquiries are made every day. According to the information we have till date, 15 crore books are yet to be printed. Apart from eighth-ninth, 4-5 books of different classes are left to be printed. They (NCTB) have also taken more time to prepare the manuscript as it is a new curriculum book. The printer is not responsible. It is clear that NCTB has created a big mess.
Shahid Serniabat, President of the Printing Industry Association, told, “I am clearly saying that NCTB will not be able to provide 100% books to all students on January 1. We, who run the printing press, are working. NCTB will not give wrong information. They will not be able to deliver the books on time. They didn’t even work that way. Such a crisis has arisen due to corruption and irregularities.
He said that a successful initiative of the government is to give free books to students on the first day of the year. This initiative has been stalled since last year. Last year also it was not possible to give books to all the students. It doesn’t seem like it will happen this time either. For this, the board chairman’s incompetence, inefficiency, corruption are responsible.
However, NCTB Chairman Prof. Mohammad Farhadul Islam claimed that the tender schedule and work contract were done according to the rules. He told, “We took all the initiatives to print the book on time.” There was a problem with class VIII-IX books. The eighth work is going on. Navam’s books are still working. Now money has become a problem. We can’t pay. They (press owners) are stopping the printing of books. Couldn’t pay their bills. The owners of the press are now saying that they are not able to buy the paper. That is why book printing is also stopped.
The Chairman of the Textbook Board said, “I have informed the Prime Minister’s office about this. I have also informed the education secretary. It is being said from there that no official was in the country. I heard that he came later. He also promised that he will arrange the money discount. I heard it will be November 22, but it didn’t happen. Today is November 23, it’s not even today. I sent my (NCTB) Finance CEO there in person. Let’s see when it happens. As soon as we receive the money, we will start the work. I hope all the books will be printed on time.

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