Govt should support book publishers

Tuesday July 30 2019



Shutter image.

Shutter image. 

By Editor

With the advancement in technology, it is needless to underline the disruption in the traditional modus operandi. And this has cut across disciplines; journalism, education, medicine, and banking, among others.

However, even as we embrace technology, there are aspects of our day-to-day life that should not be ignored or in the worse case scenario, should be midwifed well. One of them is the book publishing industry – and for purposes of this section - the academic and non-fiction sector.

For example, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, the Uganda Textbook - Academic and Non Fiction Authors Association (UTANA), have found themselves swimming in uncomfortable waters of financial constraints.

And as a response, they have retreated to pool together resources to enable their cause because many readers have rushed to electronic texts and, therefore, are not buying the hard copies. According to the UTANA chairperson, Prof Elisan Magara, the expenses incurred in publishing are high yet technology has taken away the numbers and this hinders many prospective writers.

“Everything is in google, dictionaries and Bibles are on the phone, piracy and plagiarism is hurting the book industry because you cannot stop photocopying. Worse still we have a poor reading culture much as investing in books creates a legacy,” he said at the weekend.

The authors are right to venture into resource mobilisation. And we think they have a point in propping up the industry. Why?

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First, in reality, Uganda’s education system today depends largely on hard copy materials as teaching and learning materials, which should be availed and made cheaper. Secondly, much as there is technological disruption, many learners are computer illiterate or do not have the computers. Books are easily available.

Also, according to the 2014 Census Report, the literate population in Uganda has been increasing over the last 24 years from 5.9 million in 1991 to 10.8 million in 2002 and to 16.3 million in 2014.
However, the literacy rate was 72 per cent in 2014 having increased slightly from 70 per cent in 2002 a two-percentage point in 12 years!

Yet at the end of May, the World Bank’s adviser on Global Education Practice, Mr Mourad Ezzine, recommended that government scraps the Primary Leaving Examinations to save $82 million (about Shs306.4b), which he claimed is lost to what he described as unproductive education. His argument was that many children leave in the middle of primary education when they are still illiterate.

It is because of the need to have a strong reading and writing culture that we can have a literate society. And having a strong financial muscle is good in supporting both the authors and promoting a good reading culture.

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