Almost one-and-half months have gone by since the new academic year began for schools in Assam under the State board. This is the time when teachers have to lay the foundations of the syllabi to be taught. The students are fresh and eager to learn at the beginning of the session, so the initiative must not be lost. But as in earlier years, this year too school students have been left hamstrung due to lack of textbooks. The situation is particularly bad for those in classes IX and X. Apart from English and Assamese, even for subjects like Mathematics, Science and Social Science, the prescribed textbooks are yet to reach the market. This recently forced a delegation of All Guwahati Students Union to confront senior officials of Assam State Text Book Production & Publication Corporation. Earlier last month, when the AGSU had staged a protest, corporation higher-ups had assured making all textbooks available by January 20. But the deadline came and passed; about 70 percent students in the higher classes are yet to get their hands on textbooks. Now the textbook corporation has reportedly promised a new deadline of February 20. This is how precious academic time in schools is being shamefully allowed to go waste by the authorities. The problem for many government schools will be compounded as this happens to be an election year, when such schools will be taken over for polling purposes after Rongali Bihu. After that, there will be little time left for the summer holidays to start. So if the momentum is lost now, the chances are that school students under the State board will end up losing half the year learning very little in the classes. So they will have to make up with reference books and notes brought out by private parties, some of which are of dubious standards. These in turn will be mostly taught by private tutors. Thanks to the negligence and irresponsibility of the State Education department, schooling is virtually being turned over to private operators. This is the trend in district after district across Assam. So when guardians in droves turn their backs to government schools and scramble to get their wards admitted in private schools under other boards like CBSE or ICSE, the State government has only itself to blame.