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School children to join academic session without books

Karachi, July 23: Thousands of school-going children will be joining the new academic session on August 9, a week earlier than the previous schedule, without the prescribed textbooks as the Sindh Text Book Board is unable to provide them on this date.

The announcement made by provincial Secretary Education Subhago Khan Jatoi to start school session earlier in order to prepare the students for Independence Day celebrations has caused hardships for the Sindh Text Book Board, as it has already delayed the process of publishing books owing to change of its chairman as well as procurement of paper by the Sindh Education department.

As the new school academic session (2007-2008) draws closer students and parents are thronging bookshops but to their dismay booksellers are not able offer them a complete range of textbooks for the academic session. The STBB had already conveyed to the Education Minister, Dr Hamida Khuhro, that books would be made available in the market just a day before the new session starts on August 15. It is said that a tug of war between the minister and the publishers also delayS the process.

In all this, to complicate matters, the education minister's portfolio has been down-graded. It is said that this has has also became a major reason behind the delay in publishing and binding of books. Now the students have to bear the brunt of this tussle within the education department.

The department did not realize the pros and cons of its decision prior to announcing the date for new academic session. As a result, the students would be going to schools without the prescribed books for the year. Students and parents have been facing this dilemma year after year owing to poor planning and lack of interest on the part of the authorities concerned to ensure the availability of books on time.

Publishers lay the blame on the Sindh Text Book Board for not placing its print order on time, while STBB complains that the education department had supplied paper in May - the month that witnessed violent incidents, power breakdowns and of course pre-monsoon rain.

And all of a sudden, the portfolio of the education minister was "right-sized", which obviously affected the process of printing books because there was confusion over whose jurisdiction this issue lay in. Though the newly inducted Chairman STBB Shamsuddin Solangi had promised to publish the books by the mid of August using his own powers, he too failed in his endeavour as the provincial education secretary announced opening of schools a week earlier.

The problem is further aggravated due to non-functioning of the STBB's own press. As a result, the job was assigned to a few private publishers, including Oxford University Press, Urdu Academy of Sindh, Ferozsons, Universal Book Depot, Noorani Publishers, Shaikh Shaukat Ali and Sons, Gaba Sons and the Royal Book Depot.

According to knowledgeable sources, 20% of the books were to be published by the Sindh Text Book Board, but that quota was also forwarded to a private contractor. Besides, Welcome Book Publisher and two other Hyderabad-based publishers had refused to publish books owing to grammatical and proofing errors.

It is worth mentioning that the rest of three provinces have already published books well before time, but it was only the Sindh province that remained behind schedule in this regard. The news
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