THERE is no independence and professionalism in the evaluation and approval of publishers and distributors of textbooks in the Ministry of Education because the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) members of staff are compromised, the Parliament Select Committee on Education heard yesterday.
Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia (BETUZ) submitted that CDC staff members were compromised because they accepted private jobs from certain publishers to author books.
Appearing as a witness before the education committee, BETUZ director of research Stanley Mhango and spokesperson Kakunta Kabika told members of Parliament that the acceptance of CDC officers to author books for some publishers compromised their independence and professionalism in evaluating and approving their own works.
“The relationship between the Ministry of Education and the publishers leaves much to be desired as it is dogged with mistrust and suspicions,” Mr Mhango said.
He charged that the constrained relationship between the ministry and Zambian publishers stems from the unprofessional conduct of some members of staff of the Curriculum Development Centre and the procurement department of the ministry.
Mr Mhango said the strained relationship between the ministry and publishers needed serious and quick attention, adding that if left unchecked it could have a negative impact on the growth of the local publishers and book sellers.
“It is believed that decentralized procurement process did not only ensure quick and efficient distribution of books to schools but equally that it created employment and contributed to the promotion of a reading culture as most sellers set up bookstores in their areas of operation,” he said.
And Mr Kabika said the Ministry of General Education did not consult the labour movement when it decided to change from the decentralized to centralized procurement system.
Mr Kabika was responding to Kwacha constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Bonnie Mutale who wanted to know whether the ministry consulted the union when it decided to shift from decentralized to centralized procurement of textbooks.
In his response, Mr Kabika said the ministry through the Curriculum Development Centre did not engage the union.
“If we were engaged we would have advised them not go ahead with the centralized system. Because we still have schools which have not received new textbooks under the new curriculum,” Mr Kabika said.
He also told the committee that some textbooks under the new curriculum had been rejected by some teachers, adding that they were not being used despite being recommended by CDC.
And Secondary School Teachers Union of Zambia (SSTUZ) general secretary Sitibekiso Wamuyuwa said the unions had never been a part of the procurement system, let alone the delivery and distribution of educational materials.
Mr Wamuyuwa said teachers had observed that some textbooks were shallow in terms of content as compared to the old ones and as such they were compelled to make reference to old textbooks to enrich their lessons.
“It has been observed that some books contain typographical errors while others, especially vernacular language books, contain translation errors e.g the Grade 8 Junior Secondary Book for Teachers ‘Buku La Phunzisi’ in Phunziro 2, English version of the words ‘tauni’ (town) and ‘mawadi’ (wards) are used instead of the Nyanja ‘mzinda’ and ‘dela’ respectively,” Mr Wamuyuwa said.