PUBLISHERS SEEK PRESIDENTIAL INTERVENTION IN TEXTBOOK SCANDAL

By Sandra Machima

LOCAL book publishers have called on President Edgar Lungu to make a deliberate move to help clean up the Ministry of General Education, following revelations that most of the books on the market were actually done by foreigners at the expense of indigenous Zambians.

Former Mwajionera book publishing managing director Alice Mkandawire disclosed that the local book industry was broken down effective the introduction of central tendering system by the Ministry of General Education that worked to their disadvantage.

She said it was only the President that could correct the situation at hand as the system had bred corruption, a situation that had saw Zambia losing about US$20 million paid to foreign companies registered in Zambia at the expense of the local publishers.

Ms Mkandawire’s comment followed revelations by the Daily Nation that Ugandans authored textbooks that the publishers passed off as authored by Zambians when not, and one of the Ugandan authors has sued for copyright infringement

It has become clear that the copyright for the text books does not belong to any Zambians as the work was written by Ugandans while Zambians’ names were used on the understanding that they would be paid royalties.

Ms Mkandawire said local publishers had taken interest in pleading with the Ministry of General Education over the procurement of textbooks, saying the publishers were vindicated now that some foreign authors were the ones who were writing books on behalf of Zambians.

“Because the President has a heart for the Zambian people, and he would not want to see a situation whereby Zambians are taken back to streets because of lack of jobs, and that is why we are appealing to him to make a deliberate move at the Ministry of General Education so that all sort of corruptions are wiped out,” she said.

She alleged that the process of textbook distribution at the Ministry of General Education should be corrected before the education sector was eroded in the country.

Ms Mkandawire said it was now not disputed that the books were rejected by some schools because they had foreign concepts that could not be understood by teachers and leaners.

As publishers, we tried to engage the Ministry of Education in 2014 with reference to their own policy on the procurements of books, not just that we wanted business, but we had an interest to safe guard the country’s education system, because the end users of books are pupils.

There were over 20 publishing companies, with over 1000 authors, typists, editors, artists, sales representatives, marketers, over 300 bookshops spread across the country and now there are less than twenty bookshops, less than five publishers, because most of them have closed.

Thereafter we sought the intervention of ZPPA, Ministry of Justice, Anti-Corruption Commission who to date have failed to see any smoke in the Ministry of Education,” she explained.

She said that now that the disparities in the process were revealed it was imperative that the relevant authorities addressed the problems with text book procurement, if quality education was to be realised in Zambia.

MK Publishers was among some companies that had been awarded big tenders by the Ministry of General Education, a situation that had generated debate among local publishers who felt they were being denied opportunities to boost the book industry in the country.

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