No textbook festival this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic
Despite doubt over the timely distribution of free textbooks to primary- and secondary-level students for the new academic year, the government has successfully started handing out the new books across the country.
The nationwide textbook distribution among school students began on Friday – the first day of the year, as has been the tradition for the last 10 years – but without the usual fanfare because of the ongoing pandemic.
It came just a day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the distribution through a videoconference from her official residence Ganabhaban in Dhaka.
However, unlike previous years, the National Textbook Festival did not take place this year, keeping in line with the national health safety guideline because of Covid-19.
In early December last year, the 154 presses tasked with printing the textbooks feared that they might not be able to deliver 30% of the books within the deadline if the local paper mills did not supply the required papers and reduce the price.
Despite the pandemic, the government took all-out measures to distribute new textbooks among more than 41.6 million students from pre-primary to secondary levels, free of cost.
The book distribution process started at 9:30am and continued till 4pm, BSS reports.
Students, donning masks, entered their school grounds maintaining proper health rules and stood in queues at a distance of three feet so that they could receive their books safely.
Teachers sanitized the hands of the students prior to letting them enter their classrooms.
Sakina Mollik, an assistant teacher at Mirpur National (Afternoon) Government Primary School in Dhaka, told BSS that students arrived at school early in the morning with their parents to collect new books.
“About 85% of the students along with their parents received books from pre-primary to Class V,” she said.
Textbook distribution process may take a few days more this year as many students moved to village homes due to the pandemic, she said, adding that usually students get new books within one to two days if the schools are open.
On December 29, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) issued a notification on its website, announcing that free textbooks would be handed over to the students on January 1, 2021, BSS reports.
Three days have been allotted for distribution of books for each class.
Textbooks for Classes VI to IX have to be distributed over 12 days.
The notification further said that the school authorities must conduct textbook distribution by ensuring the health protection of the students in accordance with the proper health rules.
Prof Narayan Chandra Saha, chairman of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), said that new textbooks will have new covers in celebration of Mujib Year.
Still images of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, independence, the Liberation War, Language Movement and various development projects of the present government have been included with captions on the back page of the textbooks, he added.
The NCTB chairman said all of the primary-level textbooks had already been printed, while more than 85% of secondary-level textbooks are printed so far.
The ready books have already been dispatched to the schools across the country, he added.
Pre-primary books, Braille method books and books for ethnic students have also been printed, he added.
As many as 343,662,412 copies of textbooks will be distributed among 41,655,226 pre-primary, primary, Ebtedayee, secondary (Bangla and English version), Dakhil, Dakhil (Vocational), SSC (Vocational), and technical students, according to the NCTB.
Among them, the primary students need 102,582,555 books in 2021, says the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education.
Of those, 25,992,671 books are for first- and second-graders, while 69,697,374 books are for the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
A total of 2,13,288 books printed in five ethnic languages will be distributed to 94,275 ethnic students – Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo and Sadri – from pre-primary to Class III, BSS reports.
This year, Braille books will be distributed to 9,196 visually impaired students.
According to the Ministry of Education, in the academic year of 2021, 243,334,000 copies of textbooks will be printed for the secondary-level students.
Highlighting that educational institutions across Bangladesh had been close since mid-March last year due to the pandemic, Dr Syed Md Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), told BSS: “We are trying to reach the new books to the students across the country on time, in spite of the situation.”
He urged teachers, students and parents to follow the hygiene rules while distributing the books at the educational institutions.
“We will try to ensure that the students can continue their education smoothly from the beginning of 2021,” he added.
The government has been celebrating “National Textbook Festival” on January 1 every year since 2010, distributing the textbooks free of cost, with the aim of elevating education standards and preventing dropout rates.
Since 2010, about 3.315 billion copies of primary and secondary textbooks have been distributed across the country.