PESHAWAR, Feb 22: The wide discrepancy of hundreds of thousands of students between two different sets of official data collected from the same sources of information has put a big question mark on the project for distribution of free textbooks among students of government schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The provincial government has been annually allocating a huge amount of money to distribution of free of cost textbooks among the students since the project was launched by the previous Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government.

After launch of the project its cost has been increasing every year and the provincial government allocated Rs1.619 billion for this purpose in the budget 2012-13.

Education Management Information System (EMIS), a cell established in the provincial Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department, annually collects all information about schools in the province and the number of enrolled students up to intermediate level, while another branch of the education department responsible for distribution of free textbooks collects its own data about the number of students in government schools.

Comparing both sets of data available with Dawn, it was revealed that the number of beneficiary students of free textbooks in the previous five years was much higher than shown in the EMIS data.

The provincial government has spent Rs846.075 million for providing free textbooks to 4.34 million students in 2008-09, while the EMIS puts the number of students of the same session at 3.588 million. There was a difference of 0.752 million students. Around Rs145 million was spent on the students not mentioned in the EMIS data.

A total of Rs860 million was earmarked in 2009-10 for providing free textbooks to 4.37 million students, while according to the EMIS data 3.597 million students were enrolled in the government schools. Around 0.77 million students had benefited from free textbooks which were missing in the EMIS data, the comparison of both data revealed.

In 2010-11 the difference in the number of students stood at 0.67 million as the beneficiary students of free textbooks were recorded at 4.43 million, while according to EMIS data the enrolled students were 3.763 million. Around one billion rupees were spent on free textbooks while Rs151 million on students not available in the EMIS data.

Similarly, the students who benefited from free textbooks were 4.72 million in 2011-12 while the number of enrolled students as per EMIS data was 3.8 million – a difference of around one million students. With the allocation of Rs1.458 billion in 2011-12, the government had spent Rs308 per student and around Rs300 million on the students not mentioned by the EMIS.

Provincial coordinator for provision of free textbooks project Rashid Khan Paindakhel, when contacted, told Dawn that students’ data for provision of free textbooks was collected by him from the district education officers and books were provided accordingly. “We do not use the EMIS data for providing books,” he said.

When his attention was drawn to difference in the number of students which runs into hundreds of thousands between his and the EMIS data, he said: “I cannot say anything about this big difference”.

The data for EMIS and free textbooks is collected from the same sources of information – the district education offices and headmasters of the schools –and the big difference in both sets of data was a question mark for the education department, said a senior official. It was the department’s prime duty to ascertain the reasons for the difference because it has been spending millions of rupees on the students missing in its data, he said.

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