A section of corrupt officials, headteachers of schools and printers are making illegal money publishing about 8 per cent more textbooks than required by showing greater than their actual number of students.
High officials and printing association leaders said that some rackets of corrupt field officials of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Directorate of Primary Education and National Curriculum and Textbook Board in association with some government and non-government school and madrassah headteachers and printers have been making an estimated Tk 80 crore per year showing a greater number of students.
There are two ways these syndicates ensure their profit — some by not publishing the declared number after overestimation, some without publishing the books and sourcing it from stocks of extra books stocked by local government employees or from the market.
The former group shows more students than the actual number when printers publish less number of books than the number mentioned in the quotations called by the textbook board, they said.
Some corrupt printers do not even print books rather supply those late by purchasing those from the stocks of upazila-level officials of DPE and the DSHE while officials sell the remaining extra books to paper mills for reuse and to bookshops at Bangla Bazar and Nilkhet from where students of unregistered English medium schools, kindergartens and madrassahs purchase them, they added.
Some parents said they purchased each textbook meant for free distribution at Tk 50 plus from Nilkhet and Bangla Bazar as schools and madrasshas often take time to supply textbooks.
NCTB chairman Narayan Chandra Saha said that extra stocks of textbooks at some schools which they find almost every year indicate that schools give numbers more than the actual number of students.
DPE director general Alamgir Mohammad Mansurul Alam said that last week he ordered for reverification of the number of students sent by the upazila primary education officers seeking textbooks as many district primary education officers told him that actual number would be less.
‘We will send the number of students to NCTB after reverification as we want to stop illegal sale of free textbooks,’ Mansurul Alam said.
Since the introduction of the textbook festival on January 1, 2010, the government in the past 11 years published 365.84 crore textbooks for free distribution among students of pre-primary, primary, ebtedayee, secondary, dakhil, technical, ethnic students by spending over Tk 10,300 crore, NCTB officials said.
Initially, they said, the NCTB used to publish 5 per cent extra textbooks as a buffer stock, which had been stopped last year after the agency found that some people were making money printing extra textbooks.
Depending on the size and printing colour, production of the textbooks varies from Tk 14 to Tk 26, Bangladesh Textbook Printing and Marketing Association president Tofael Khan said.
‘A number of corrupt printers in collusion with government officials submit low-rate quotations to get the job. These printers never publish textbooks rather purchase those from the stocks of the upazila-level officials of the DPE and the DSHE,’ Tofael said.
Government officials sell textbooks to such printers at Tk 7 per textbooks while they sell textbooks to the libraries and to the paper mills at the rate of Tk 5, Tofael added
‘After purchasing the textbooks from officials of one upazila, corrupt printers supply those to their designated upazila officials paying Tk 2 as a bribe for each textbook,’ Tofael said.
Such printers always supply textbooks very late, sometimes even after six months than the scheduled time, Tofael said, adding that they get the job every year in the same company name or under a new name.
‘Most of the printers who get the task of publishing textbooks for technical education, English version and braille, supply textbooks very late as they are part of the syndicates,’ he added.
He further said that many unregistered English medium schools, kindergartens and qawmi madrassahs which teach Bangla, English and Bangladesh O Biswa Parichoy textbooks following the national curriculum also buy those from the syndicates.
Tofael suggested the government should publish some textbooks for sale for English medium schools, madrasshas and to replenish lost or damaged textbooks.
NCTB officials admitted that some printers supplied technical education textbooks in May 2020 though they were supposed to supply them in December.
Owners of such printers acted defensive when faced with the queries regarding their performance. Mir Emdad Rana, owner of Tangail Offset Press and Adil Khan, owner of Naima Art Press, admitted that each year they supplied textbooks late but explained that they did not ‘get supply of papers in time despite paying on time’.
They, however, denied the allegation of not printing textbooks and supplying those after purchasing from upazila officers.
Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics officials said that many headteachers of government and non-government schools, colleges and madrassahs show more than their actual number of students not because they are involved with textbook syndicates but to fulfill the minimum requirement of students against the allocated posts of teachers for government schools as well as for getting monthly pay order benefit for non-government schools.
The field officials know that the actual number of students in many institutions was less than the figure the school authorities provide and how it creates the chance to make stocks of free textbooks, the officials said.
‘Introducing unique identity numbers to each student can be the only solution to control such corruption in textbook distribution and ensuring transparency regarding MPO benefit and posting of teachers at government schools,’ former BANBEIS and DPE director general Md Fashiullah said.
Kindergarten and non-government school headteachers admitted that they provide a figure more than the actual number of students as the government always supplies less than their demands.
‘We are cautious as some schools faced a shortage in the past years,’ Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikya Parishad chairman Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury said.
Headteachers of some non-government schools and kindergartens also alleged that they need to pay up to Tk 4,000 to upazila officials while collecting books.
DSHE director Md Belal said that he was unaware of such corruption by schools or field officials. ‘We will take action if we get any specific complaints,’ Belal said.
Belal further claimed that BANBEIS in association with the directorate was working to introduce unique identity numbers for all students.
NCTB chairman Narayan Chandra Saha said that the board controlled corruption in textbook printing and supply. ‘We are showing zero tolerance and taking action in case of any serious allegations,’ he said.
Narayan added that this year they blacklisted 14 printers for delaying the supply of textbooks for months.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country