Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Meeting in Reading, March 2009

A major component of the African language materials for children project is an evaluation of the pan-African initiative, Stories across Africa. StAAf is a core project of the Implementing the Language Plan of Action for Africa steering committee of the African Academy of languages, the language bureau of the African Union. It is organized around four regional centres – central (Rwanda), West (Ghana), East (Tanzania) and North Africa (Egypt) – and co-ordinated by the Early Literacy Unit of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education (PRAESA) in South Africa.

StAAf is working on three anthologies to be published in a range of languages, generating very large print runs and consequent economies of scale. It thus offers an ideal opportunity to look more widely at issues facing African language publishing for children – while also considering issues in pan-African cooperation.

A specially convened meeting at the University of Reading in March 2008 will bring together regional coordinators, as well as others active in writing, translating, publishing and distribution to explore:
  • issues of sustainability and capacity building in relation to authors, illustrators, editors, marketing and distribution
  • the extent to which these vary from one African context to another
  • the reasons why there is so little pan-African collaboration in African language publishing.
Confirmed participants include Dr Carole Bloch, the StAAf co-ordinator, Suzana Mukobawajana (Rwanda), Professor Joshua Madmulla (Tanzania), Elibariki A. Moshi (Tanzania), Dr Nadia El Kholy (Egypt), Michael Ambetchew (Ethiopia), Dr Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa (Ghana), Akoss Ofori-Mensah (Ghana) and Arabella Koopman (South Africa) and Viviana QiƱones (France)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Background to the project

Two developments are serving as a catalyst for the African publishing industry. The first concerns the implementation of bilingual education policy at the primary level: South Africa, Mozambique, Mali, Ethiopia are among the states committed to using African languages as the medium of instruction alongside former colonial languages. The second concerns a shift in attitudes towards the materials used in the teaching of reading. Whereas, traditionally, the emphasis was exclusively on textbooks, new approaches to the teaching are creating a demand for what are sometimes termed ‘supplementary reading materials’.

African language publishing, however, is at an embryonic stage. Because parents have little disposable income, there is a very limited trade market and heavy dependence on the market guaranteed by sales to Education Departments. There is also a lack of infrastructural capacity. Production issues include a shortage of writers in African languages and of translators with experience of children’s literature. There are also problems in distributing the books.