PESHAWAR, March 16: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has distributed free textbooks to intermediate students of public sector schools in the province over the last four years but denied them to more than 100,000 intermediate students enrolled in colleges, it is learnt.
The government had begun giving textbooks to students of its educational institutions up to intermediate level in the academic year 2008-09.
In fact, it was the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government to begin the scheme. Initially, it was for up to primary level but later it was extended to intermediate level.
According to the elementary and secondary education officials, the government has distributed free textbooks to all those attending classes from grade 1 to intermediate in government schools in the province in the last four years but intermediate students of colleges have yet to benefit from the scheme.
Officially, there is no reason for this ‘discrimination.’
The officials said the government had earmarked Rs1.619 billion in the budget 2012-13 for distribution of free textbooks from the next academic year beginning next month.
According to them, the province has 173 government colleges, where more than 100,000 students are enrolled for intermediate classes.
Despite repeated attempts, provincial higher education minister Qazi Mohammad Asad couldn’t be contacted for version on the matter.
Over the last few days, he had neither taken call of this correspondent on his cellphone nor had he been to his office.
However, a senior official of the department expressed ignorance about the matter and told Dawn that no one in the department and the provincial government had ever thought about it.
He said intermediate students of colleges had a right to free books as much as those enrolled in schools had.
“It is a serious matter and injustice has been done to intermediate students of colleges. I will take it up with the relevant authorities for corrective measures,” he said.
Free Textbook Project, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa coordinator Rashid Khan Paindakhel told Dawn that his project was responsible for providing free textbooks to students of schools only.
“Matters related to colleges are dealt by the higher education department,” he said.
However, a senior government official insisted that the elementary and secondary education department oversaw matters related to education up to intermediate level.
When contacted, programme manager of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Children (Sparc) Imran Takkar said the government was responsible for provision of free textbooks to students of public sector educational institutions schools up to intermediate level no matter where they were enrolled in.
“Denial of free textbooks is a discrimination against intermediate students of colleges,” he said.
Younas Khan, an intermediate student of Government College, Peshawar, complained about denial of free books.
He said the government should ensure distribution of free books to its schools and colleges without discrimination.