Education officials yesterday shifted the onus of pirated and illegally sold state textbooks onto students, faulting the teenage pupils for fuelling demand.
“If there are no buyers, there will be no sellers,” Lim Sotharith, director of the Education Ministry’s textbook department, said during a forum on secondary school textbook shortages.
“You are also responsible for the illegal sale of the books – don’t buy them,” he told the room of high-school students.
Earlier this year, the ministry orchestrated a crackdown on the unlawful sale of textbooks after an NGO investigation found 69 per cent of surveyed students received their books late and often resorted to buying those that had been meant for their school but were instead channelled onto the market.
Students yesterday said that shortages mean as many as six students can end up sharing a single book. They also reported having to pay between 50 cents and $25 to obtain the books from libraries or district officials, though government policy stipulates they be provided free of charge and at a ratio of one book per two students.
“To have sufficient textbooks is to have one alone so you can individually study, research, do homework and review,” said Chan Sorphea, 18, a student at Chea Sim Chamroeun Roth High School.
The officials said students wanting their own book should borrow it from their school’s library, not turn to the market.
“You all want textbooks, but you don’t want to go to the library where you can read the books, you just want to hold it and have it to yourself,” said Men Sothy, deputy chief of planning at the Phnom Penh Education Department.
But the ministry’s own statistics from the current school year show that only 36 per cent of schools have libraries, and having a library doesn’t guarantee a stock of books.
“I don’t buy my books from the market because I want to, but because of the lack of textbooks at my school I am forced to spend my own money on them,” said Duk Rathana, 18, a student at Toul Ampil Secondary School.