The government is determined to distribute new textbooks among pre-primary, primary and secondary-level students in time though printing houses are doubtful about timely delivery of the books due a delay in the tender process.
This year, around 343 million textbooks are being printed in around 200 printing presses across the country for the 2021 academic year.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni has said students would get free textbooks in time. “We’re doing our best to achieve that goal even amid the Covid-19 situation,” she said while talking to journalists recently.
The officials of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) are confident of receiving the textbooks from printing houses in time and starting the distribution of those among students through the Textbook Festival on January 1, 2022.
They are also visiting printing houses and supervising printing activities along with two agencies to
make the textbooks ready in time.
The printing and binding of textbooks are now going on in full swing.
“The printing process has been delayed a little bit due to re-tenders floated as the press owners didn’t want to accept our terms and conditions,” he said.
Meanwhile, press owners have expressed doubts about completing the printing of books and delivering those in time due to the delay in taking decision by the NCTB.
They said the NCTB made a delay in the tender process and floated tenders for thrice, which left them with very little time to finish their job in time.
The NCTB officials acknowledged the delay in the tender process, but said the printing presses raised the costs through syndication, forcing the authorities to invite the re-tender.
With less than one and a half months left, the officials are still hopeful that the students will receive the books from the first day of the New Year. Sources said the NCTB floated tenders for the job three times since March 7 and the printers received work orders on November 9. Officials said they had floated the tenders several times to prevent a syndication of press owners.
There is also an allegation that a company named Choumuhani-based Agrani Printing Press was awarded the job for printing highest number of 3 crore books and it got the work order on September 20. Other press owners alleged that the NCTB had favoured this particular printer for some secret reasons.
Some printing presses moved the High Court against Agrani, claiming that the printing press was not capable of carrying out the job. However, the court dismissed the pleas by giving an order in Agrani’s favour on November 9.
Shaheed Serniabat, chairman of Printing Industries Association of Bangladesh, told the Daily Sun: “It won’t be possible to print all books before December as the printing houses got the work orders lately.”
“The NCTB set a new condition this year to favour a particular printing house as the tender process was delayed and it is not possible to deliver the books before the book festival on January 1,” he said.
“If the authorities want to distribute the books from January 1, those should be delivered by mid-December. But the NCTB killed time in the tender process,” Shaheed added.
He also said it might take them until February to complete the job.
The Awami League government has been distributing textbooks among the primary and secondary students free of cost on the first day of New Year (January 1) by holding a National Textbook Festival since 2010.