Three weeks after the Karnataka High Court pulled up the state government over delays in printing and distribution of textbooks to students, the Karnataka Textbook Society (KTBS) has claimed that it has completed 86.67 per cent of the distribution.
According to a senior official from KTBS, over 4.63 crore of the total 5.34 crore textbooks have reached students across 34 educational districts in the state as on September 16. “We have printed over 4.98 crore books, which makes 93.28 per cent of the total target for students of classes I to X,” the official told The Indian Express.
The least number of textbooks have been distributed in Gadag educational district at 72.88 per cent, with Dharwad (75.85 per cent), Uttara Kannada (76.75) and Haveri (77.30) reporting similar numbers.
On the other hand, Bengaluru South (96.85 per cent), Bengaluru North (95.90), Tumakuru (95.42) and Chitradurga (95.11) have seen the highest number of textbooks distributed.
The academic year had commenced on July 1 for schools following the state syllabus. Two months later, the Karnataka HC observed on August 25 that there was “no purpose or meaning” unless students were provided with textbooks. The division bench comprising Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice P Krishna Bhat noted that commencement of classes and supply of textbooks to students should go hand-in-hand.
On August 30, the state government informed the court that 54.74 per cent of textbooks had been supplied till August 25 and that the remaining would be completed in another 20 days.
Terming the delay a “criminal negligence”, V N Rajashekar of the Karnataka chapter of the All India Save Education Committee said, “while the government is well aware of the Covid-19 situation and how students in rural areas were scrambling to get properly educated in the absence of proper online aids, the least it could do was ensure that textbooks reached them on time. The delay in printing and distribution of textbooks, which repeats year after year, is nothing but criminal negligence towards upcoming generations.”
Rajashekar added that it was imperative that the tender process should begin at least by January-February every year to ensure textbooks are distributed well in advance to students before the commencement of an academic year. “While SATS (Student Achievement Tracking System) data is available with the government, orders can also be placed earlier to avoid a situation in which students are left with no books for nearly half of the academic year,” he said.
Bengaluru-based development educationist Niranjanaradhya V P suggested that the government should prepare a concrete plan to help children address the losses and gaps in learning due to the lack of textbooks. “The syllabus and the contents of learning need to be reorganised to address this. Teachers need a well-thought-out training programme and support system to address this emergency,” he said.
“The supply is expected to be completed before the end of this month. We are ensuring that each book is being monitored to avoid damages and other issues. The entire data is being fed to our systems online in a bid to avoid any further issues,” said a senior official from the Department of Public Instruction in Bengaluru.