Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart on Wednesday told Parliament that Unicef forked out $52 million last year to avert a catastrophic textbook shortage and further decline in the country’s educational standards.
Coltart made the remarks while addressing MPs in Parliament after they queried how Longman Publishers had won the five-year tender to print the books ahead of other bidders like Zimbabwe Publishing House and College Press.
He said Unicef had processed the tenders since it was their project. He said Unicef told him Longman Publishers won the tender because of its charges and quality products.
Murehwa West MP Wadi Nezi had claimed when the tender was awarded, Longman did not even know that they had won it while the other competitors, Zimbabwe Publishing House and College Press were not even aware that they had lost the tender.
“The three main criteria for the awarding of the tender were that the textbooks should be approved by the Ministry of Education, that the books should not be of cheap quality and that the price should be fair,” said Coltart.
“Unicef publicised the tender and Longman Publishers came up with a tender of books approved by the ministry and that was the cheapest of the bids forwarded. When the final contract was awarded to Longman, there were savings of $10 million as well as the delivery of 30 million textbooks to 5 500 schools. Every primary school in Zimbabwe now has textbooks and we now have the best text book ratios in Africa,” Coltart said.
He said President Robert Mugabe had given his nod for Longman Publishers in Cabinet, saying it was a reputable publishing company.
“Unicef was against contracting a company that wanted to make windfall profits and that is why it settled for Longman Publishers which made cheap but very strong textbooks. However, for secondary school textbooks we will endeavour to involve textbook proprietors all over the country,” he said.
But Mwenezi East MP, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, alleged the content in the textbooks were not in tandem with the country’s syllabi.