Srinagar: The academic progress of students in government schools has been severely impacted as the distribution of free textbooks by the School Education Department (SED) faces significant delays.
Despite the passage of two months since the start of the new academic session, students enrolled in most of the education zones across Kashmir are yet to receive the textbooks – the essential learning materials.
According to the official schedule earlier notified by the JKBOSE, the process for distributing textbooks was set to commence on April 5, 2023.
The books were expected to reach all zones across Kashmir by the last week of April or the first week of May. However, this timeline has not been met, leaving students at the receiving end.
Scores of teachers from Kupwara and Baramulla district voiced their concern, revealing that several schools were still awaiting textbook deliveries from their respective zones.
As a result, teachers have been forced to manage classes by reusing books from the “book bank” maintained by the department.
Under the book bank initiative, teachers collect textbooks from students who have been promoted to the next class and distribute them to incoming students. Unfortunately, due to the delays, most students are being deprived of fresh textbooks, as they are receiving worn-out and outdated copies.
"This situation becomes particularly problematic when the board authorities update the content of certain textbooks, leaving students unable to study the revised material," a teacher said.
Similar complaints have surfaced from other districts, with teachers asserting that the department has failed to provide complete sets of textbooks to the students.
One teacher in Baramulla district highlighted the inadequate provision of books for the seventh-grade students, with only three – Mathematics, Geography, and Political Science - out of eight required textbooks being supplied.
Similarly, for fifth-grade students, only two – English and Urdu - out of five textbooks have been provided while first-grade students have only received textbooks for Kashmiri and English subjects.
Over the years, the school heads and teachers establish a book bank, as per the government directions, and utilise old books, providing 25 percent of the required textbooks from these resources.
"The department is expected to supply the remaining 75 percent. However, this directive has not been fully implemented, resulting in a shortage of books," another teacher said.
The teachers said that only 50 percent of the required books had been provided.
“For instance, in eighth-grade with 20 students, the school has managed to arrange books for only five students, while the department has supplied books for ten,” the teacher said. "The remaining five students have no textbooks, creating chaos in schools."
While the schools are facing a dearth of textbooks, JKBOSE published textbooks are available in the market in bulk.
"It has raised apprehensions among the stakeholders as to why the department failed to provide free textbooks in schools while there is no shortage of textbooks in the market," an official said.
However, the teachers attribute the delay to either the zonal offices failing to submit requisitions to the J&K Board based on the schools' textbook requirements or the board's inability to meet the demands adequately.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Principal Secretary School Education Department (SED) Alok Kumar said, "The department is looking into the issue."