KATHMANDU, May 12: In what can be seen as a telling example of gross mismanagement within Janak Education Material Centre (JEMC), almost two million textbooks meant for students of grade one to five are lying unsold in various stores.
A large amount of textbooks, which have already been handed over to Sajha Prakashan, the sole government entity for distributing books taught in public schools, too, has remained unsold.
According to Rudra Prasad Neupane, marketing chief of Sajha Prakashan, almost 10,000 sets of textbooks meant for students of grade one to five still remain unsold. Each set contains five textbooks of different subjects.
Sajha Prakashan has not taken delivery of almost two million textbooks from the JEMC. "We still have some two million textbooks piled up in our regional stores," JEMC Spokesperson Manohar Lamichhane told Republica.
According to Lamichhane, 710,626 textbooks are lying unsold at the central office of the JEMC in Bhaktapur alone. "We are collecting reports about unsold textbooks from our regional offices," he said.
Primary-level textbooks are in surplus while there is a shortage of around 1.2 million textbooks for grade nine and ten students. "This is sheer mismanagement," said an official at the Department of Education (DoE). "The JEMC has failed to assess the grades-wise requirements of school textbooks."
However, JEMC Spokesperson Lamichhane says that piling up of primary-level textbooks is not an outcome of surplus production. "We always print some 10 per cent more textbooks than the preceding year," Lamichhane said. "We have not printed an unnecessary amount of textbooks this time, either."
According to Lamichhane, it is an aggressive marketing strategy of private textbooks publishers that has badly affected the sales of the JEMC-printed books.
"Private publishers have offered more attractive commissions to distributors than us," he said. "This is the main reason behind the low sales rate of our books. Besides, some schools may have yet not received budgets from District Education Offices (DEOs) for buying textbooks for their students. As the peak season still is on, I hope that some more textbooks will be sold in coming weeks."
The government had involved private publishers in printing and distributing textbooks for eastern and western regions a couple of years ago, ending the monopoly of the JEMC and Sajha Prakashan in school textbook business. The JEMC and Sajha Prakashan officials now complain that the government´s decision has badly affected their sales.
"We have been using the profits made from city areas in supplying textbooks in remote villages and publishing literary books and magazines," said an executive officer of Sajha Prakashan.
The MoE has allocated over Rs 1.63 billion for public schools to buy textbooks this year. However, Sajha Prakashan has just sold textbooks worth Rs 420 million.
"In the past, we used to sell textbooks worth Rs 70 million every year in western region alone," Dhirendra Khanal, Pokhara office chief of Sajha Prakashan, said. "We have just sold textbooks worth Rs 10 million so far this year."