ZAMBIAN publishers have angrily dismissed assertions by the Ministry of General Education suggesting that local publishers lacked the capacity to develop and deliver textbooks.

They say this is totally untrue and a deliberate misinterpretation of facts intended to perpetrate foreign dominance and control of the industry, from which officials were deriving corrupt benefit.

They have also described as totally misplaced suggestion by ministry permanent secretary Chishimba Nkosha that local publishers were selfish and wanted to put money in their pockets.

‘‘Does he not know the PF slogan of putting more money in Zambian people’s pockets? Which party does he belong to?” an angry publisher asked.

“Why does he want to destroy Zambian children’s education the whole country? Buying one book from one publisher for all children in a subject for the whole country is criminal. There are bad and good books; if one bad book is sent to all schools all children in Zambia will get mediocre education.”

The publishers said they would seek a judicial review, saying it was about time Government protected systems from manipulation and personal vendettas on innocent people because they were Zambian business people who would want to see the country’s economic growth. They explained that in the 2013/2014 framework contracts books were delivered but the ministry failed to manage the system and instead wanted to blame publishers.

“The failure by Longman Zambia to deliver the books in 2013 to all districts resulted in the ministry recalling back money sent to districts as the publishing company had 40 percent market share.

‘‘However all the local publishers managed to deliver the books to districts despite the failure by Longman to deliver; they were awarded a contract in 2014.”

The publishers argued that the new method of procurement was expensive as it included insurance, delivery cost, warehousing and allowances for ministry staff, and also allowed for pilferage as evidenced by the availability of tenderbooks on the streets that were stolen from the warehouses.

The delay of one year six months for distribution of books was caused by a court action taken by publishers after the permanent secretary failed to meet publishers to discuss the way forward over the centralized procurement system after Ministry of General Education went ahead to close a tender disregarding a court order to halt the proceedings until after the court hearing. The Ministry of General Education’s ambitious programme to implement a new curriculum in five years from Grade 1 – 12 has led to lapses as procurement was occurring side by side with material development. This had led to the introduction of a parallel approval system which was price and not quality based.

Previously the Ministry of General Education developed manuscripts and asked publishers to tender for these titles. This meant that the investment on the part of publishers was minimal and made business sense.

The directorate of procurement has taken over the procurement of textbooks by disregarding the needs of the end user for variety and quality. The role of the directorate of standards is to evaluate the books and asses the performance of the materials in schools and also request the needs of the schools as per the policy on education of 1996.

And the directorate has completely detached itself from procurement that has created this confusion and reduced the quality of education in the country.

The new system had reduced the number of books in the bookshops and all the book chains had been destroyed as the booksellers have no role to play in the current system.

The system had denied the participation of class teachers in the selection of textbooks that plays a major role in the improvement of education standards and quality.

‘‘Can the ministry explain why they have disregarded the Educating our Future Policy on decentralized procurement of textbooks and the recommendation of the World Bank and the European Union consultancy on decentralized book procurement system?

‘‘Can the Ministry of General Education explain which country in the region is still buying Books centrally and why it is working for Zambia?’’ a publisher asked.

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