=> KARACHI, Jan 27: The caretaker chief minister has
KARACHI, Jan 27: The caretaker chief minister has finally decided to settle the controversy about the printing of textbooks, which has been in jeopardy mainly due to the seizure of the Sindh Textbook Board’s (STB) accounts by the education department, and has called a meeting on Monday (today), which all the senior officials concerned have been asked to attend, sources told Dawn.
Though an official announcement is still awaited regarding whether the new academic session would commence on April 1, four months before the schedule, the printing of millions of textbooks is still a far-fetched dream — let alone their distribution to the remotest parts of Sindh.
Sources in the education department conceded that had the procurement of paper and allocation of quotas to the publishers been given by this month (January), they would have been in the position to provide textbooks to the students by Aug 16, the starting date of the new academic session as in practice since 2006.
“The printing and distribution of over 30 million books before April 1 is next to impossible in the given circumstances. The authorities will have to stick to the Aug 16 date for the new academic session at least for this year,” admitted a senior official.
The head of the STB Shamsuddin Solangi said the situation was worsening because of lack of interest about education at the highest quarters. He blamed the education department’s constant interference in the STB’s affairs for the present situation.
He said when the education department’s powerful steering committee decided last month to start the new academic session four months before the schedule, the STB had accepted the challenge and started its efforts to bring the books out on time.
“Since then the matter had been constantly deferred by the senior quarters in the meetings of the board of governors of the STB. We have held six meetings and all the time the matter had been deferred for no reason,” he said.
He claimed the education department wanted to get hold of the lucrative dealings concerning the procurement of paper and allocation of orders to the publishers. “Each of the above dealings is worth Rs300 million,” he said.
Mr Solangi said there was no justification for the seizure of the STB’s bank accounts. The authorities seized the accounts after the board’s building was reportedly ransacked by miscreants during the violence that followed Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
“We had already informed the senior quarters that the violence had caused no damage to the accounts and audit department,” said Mr Solangi.
Sources said that during Monday’s meeting, the cancellation of the tender for the procurement of paper would also be discussed.