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BPN Newsletter Issue No 20, Autumn 1997 


Book Development in Uganda

Unesco/Danida Basic Learning Materials Initiative workshop

Agnes Katama

Agnes Katama is a media specialist and manager of ICIPE Science Press, Nairobi, Kenya. Address: P.O. Box 947, Kampala, Uganda. Tel./Fax: +256 41 346730; e-mail:

The Unesco/Danida Basic Learning Materials

Initiative has its origins in the International Consultative Forum on Education For All. The first phase of the project began in 1993 with a survey of the book sector in several countries, and the publication of a Unesco-sponsored manual entitled A Guide to Sustainable Book Provision.

The second phase draws on the results of the surveys, and reflects the continuation of the Education For All (EFA) book development initiative which aims to strengthen the provision of good quality textbooks and learning aids. Consultants have already visited Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique to undertake participatory reviews of existing books sector resources, and further visits will lead to Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Angola.

Murray McCartney, the consultant for Uganda, conducted a highly successful week-long meeting in Kampala in May, which included government, donor and publishing experts. The first day described the status quo of the book industry, within a framework of objectives: begin a multipartite process of book sector consultation to facilitate the identification of key issues in educational book supply; identify priority areas and practical strategies in the area of national book policy development; review institutional support structures for book development and make plans for enhancing their capacity and book-related skills training; identify ways in which the Unesco project might provide facilities or resources to support national book development through training, technical assistance, professional support, donor liaison; begin the process of consolidating activities and partnerships in national efforts to improve the reproduction and availability of educational materials; run national workshops aiming for a consensus on future strategies for sustainable book development, together with action plans that will take the process forward.

The purpose was to generate a clear statement of realistic and achievable activities which the participants are committed to undertaking, such as further book sector research, investigating particular skills training needs scheduling, the establishment of a book development council, requesting further information from organisations in other countries, proposing professionals' visits or exchanges.

A questionnaire from A Guide to Sustainable Book Provision was distributed, to serve as a guide to the major concerns and areas of dearth that had been identified in the national book development arena.

Discussion: the status quo

Critical areas of discussion, that came to form the crux of the days' deliberations, included paper imports and availability, issues of tax, bidding and tendering requirements, training in publishing skills, and the possibilities of book sector databasing. It was generally agreed that culture in its broadest terms is critical for national development and that a nation's culture is sustained and transmitted by books. Some of the adjectives thrown up during discussion of the status quo in general included `miserable', `haphazard' and `pathetic'. While the extent of the above was left to the free determination of participants, one crucial aspect was the feeling of high external/donor dependency.

From a different point of view entirely, the demand mechanics of primary level books were analysed. In Uganda, the only customer for the bulk of the books generated by publishers (both local and international) continues to be the Ministry of Education. This `one buyer' situation poses restrictions on essential loan acquisition from the banks. Most banks will not give loans to publishers with just one buyer for their products, even if that buyer is a ministry.

Adult literacy and basic materials

The country has recently taken on an ambitious programme: universal primary education. This pre-election pronouncement, a commitment of the government, has exacerbated already stretched resources and presents the need for a two-pronged strategy. The challenge of seeking meaningful education, books and teachers for up to ten times as many children as are currently in the schools, has brought to the fore the need to step up adult literacy campaigns. Books for primary education may be considered basic, but more basic are those for the adult sector since literate parents are more likely to allow their children to attend the classes.

National Book Policy (NBP)

Participants defined a book policy as a set of regulations and indicators promulgated by the national authority to govern the development, printing and dissemination of books, with the aim of promoting a culture of reading.

An NBP does not work in a vacuum: it is necessary to establish a forum or institution which co-ordinates activities and ensures what policies are implemented. The role of an NBP is to ensure that national language and education policies are clearly applied, as books in national languages play an important role in the introduction to literacy; ensure access to books by all sectors of the population; promote the reading habit and the eradication of illiteracy; provide the framework for the creation, production, distribution and promotion of books for all categories of society; remove constraints that impede the development of indigenous authorship and publishing, especially in national languages; identify book gaps in the country (e.g. provision of specialised materials for minority groups) and state intentions in this regard; develop a strong library network.

Uganda has a book policy. However, it has focused only on the development of the textbook, as opposed to the development of all books. There is a gap, therefore. There is a Book Policy Review Committee whose mandate covers the procurement and development of textbooks but excludes all others. The scope is now being broadened to involve all areas of book development.

The policies of the government aim for liberalisation and the creation of meaningful development. Workshop participants saw a strong book sector as being a central aspect of that process. They thought the existing Review Committee could be strengthened by co-opting professionals in particular specialist areas. Participants were concerned that all the stakeholders be represented, particularly end-users and writers.

The National Book Council

The proposal for a National Book Council was received with great enthusiasm. The minister of state for education, Brigadier Jim Muhwezi, pledged that priority consideration will be given by the ministry. A committee is now in place to prepare for its launch. This is the high point of the deliberations of the seminar and the one most desired. [end] [BPN, no 20, 1997, p. 4-5]

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