Free Textbooks Still a Mirage: Punjab’s Government Schools Begin Summer Break in Disarray

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The new academic year in Punjab initiated three months ago, yet the Punjab School Education Department has not been successful in delivering free textbooks to government schools as summer break also approaching, according to information gathered by The Express Tribune. 

As the summer holidays, set to commence from June 6 for both public and private schools, draw closer, students are grappling with the absence of their textbooks. The teaching fraternity is equally perplexed, trying to set summer vacation homework tasks when students lack the necessary study materials. 

Simultaneously, the Punjab School Education Department has directed all Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to ensure the availability of books in government schools, along with the allocation of summer homework. Private schools in Lahore and other provincial districts are actively setting homework, but the circumstances in approximately 50,000 government schools tell a different story. 

With the summer break on the horizon, the non-availability of textbooks in countless Punjab government schools has escalated into a grave issue. The Punjab School Education Department has released a notification concerning summer vacations for public and private schools, according to which, all schools will shut down on June 6. The notification also instructed all 36 district CEOs to organize books and homework before the closure of schools. However, across the Punjab region, students are struggling with the textbook deficit. 

The Punjab Curriculum Textbook Board bears the responsibility to deliver textbooks to all districts. However, the distribution process remains incomplete, even though it commenced in March. A senior official from the Punjab School Education Department lamented, “We are three months into the academic year, and the textbook shortage issue persists. Complaints from various districts reveal students still haven’t received English and science books. The distribution was delayed because the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board could not publish the books in time.” 

Read More: Summer Break Announced for Sindh’s Schools and Colleges: A Two-Month Recess Beginning June 1

The Board’s production department, charged with publishing the textbooks, has faced complications, as publishers grapple with high paper prices and delays in manuscript receipt. Amidst these predicaments, it’s the less affluent students who are bearing the brunt of the situation. 

Free textbooks for classes VI to X remain elusive in schools. “Our children, anticipating free textbooks, report that the school administration has now advised them to buy textbooks from the market, given the unlikelihood of their arrival from the School Education Department. We rely on these free resources and can’t afford costly books. The pressure to purchase books, which we cannot afford, adds an additional layer of stress,” voiced Munir Ahmad, the father of a class IX student. 

“The absence of free textbooks is a significant injustice to our underprivileged students. To add insult to injury, these textbooks are also not available in the market,” voiced the president of the Punjab Teachers Union. 

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