A frequently heard refrain in Namibia is that we lack a reading culture. Books are very expensive to buy compared with other countries and bookshops few and far between (no, Amazon doesn’t deliver). Furthermore, the materials for learners in schools and students in tertiary-education institutes are not locally produced and therefore have limited relevance to the lives of young people, especially those outside urban areas. Educators, too, lack resources that will improve their English-language proficiency: at Independence in 1990, English became the official language of the country yet at the last census (2011) only 3.4% of the population indicated that it was their principal language.
‘Good and READy’ is a ‘Good for Namibia!’ side project that I am hoping to get funding for, in order to provide under-resourced sectors in education with useful materials relevant to the Namibian context. I can’t claim it has anything to do with income-generation projects using waste materials but it is, very much, designed to uplift communities and create a ‘Proudly Namibian’ product.
Full disclosure: I have been sitting with the finalised manuscripts of the books I wish to publish for some time now but the economic downturn and shrinking budgets at all educational levels mean that it’s unlikely either book mentioned below will see production without an injection of cash into the printing process from outside/NGO donors or the corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments of businesses. The relevant ministry can barely provide cash for the most essential school materials and publishing companies are exiting the print-media landscape at warp speed. But our rural schools, especially, do still need hardcopy books and friends who lecture at colleges and universities have emphasised the need for a comprehensive resource that will help their students to deliver good-quality essays and theses.
THE BRONZE MEDAL ‘All Around Namibia’ BOOK FOR PRIMARY-LEVEL LEARNERS
Learners entering primary school in Namibia only rarely have English as a first language and tend to be taught by teachers who instruct in their mother tongue. School textbooks, written in South Africa usually, contain material that has scant application to real-life situations encountered by the children and the poor-quality graphics are often just unattractive clip art. In commonly used books, I have seen sushi depicted as a category of food and a picture of a farm with Holstein Friesian cows munching emerald-green grass, both graphics that would baffle not only the vast majority of children here, but nearly all adults as well!
Furthermore, in my view the textbooks are over-ambitious with regard to reading-skills targets and the exercises for assessment would be beyond the ability of almost every child attempting them in certain settings.
I wrote a little book designed to get our children dipping in and out of fun pages containing descriptions and narratives about four different Namibian children rather like them, illustrated with the type of beautiful artworks seen in the most popular children’s picture books. There are no evaluation exercises to intimidate the little ones and they are encouraged to write and draw on the books, stick in pictures, attempt to read funny stories (or have them read to them), and work their way through the material at their own pace and whenever they are ready, irrespective of their age or grade in the classroom (however, all Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture syllabi subjects are covered, please note). ‘All Around Namibia: Bronze Medal‘ is designed to be the first in three volumes that follow the adventures of Ndapa, a biracial girl living in the city, Freedom, a Kavango boy living by the river in the north-east, Bonnie, a sports mad boy with mobility issues at the coast and Franzina, a Nama orphan on a farm in the arid South (the first 3 shown below, artwork by Conrad Hegarty https://conrad-hegarty.tumblr.com/) .
Since I was asked to write the books several years ago, the crushing constraints on educational spending now mean that schools will not have the budgets to purchase them and the publisher cannot take a risk to print them and hope to sell a few copies here and there. We have therefore approached a number of businesses in Namibia in the hope that they would commit to purchase a certain number of these books for distribution to primary schools as part of their CSR commitment, as yet unsuccessfully, alas.
Soooooo…if you think this is something your own company can get behind, then please do let me know!
A resource for older students. ‘just a quick edit’: a handbook for people working with words in Namibia
I’ve been an English-language editor in Namibia for two decades, so I know what I’m talking about when I say that people leave the education system ill-prepared to plan, draft, write, review, revise and finalise written materials. And then they (or their employer) has to pay someone like me to fix up a whole mess of issues that they really could address themselves if only they had the tools.
I wasn’t asked to write ‘Just a Quick Edit’: A Handbook for People Working with Words in Namibia by a publisher this time – I took it upon myself as I do believe that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem, and I was pretty tired of hearing myself tell people that the ‘fully finalised version’ of their work that they thought would just need a 20-minute proof read that would cost a few bucks actually required days and days of (paid) work done on it before it was even out of the starting blocks. Moreover, friends who work in further education told me how very useful such a resource would be since their students did not have one they could refer to that met their particular challenges within the Namibian education system.
Well, that was back when ‘A Game of Thrones’ was still just a twinkle in George R. R. Martin’s eye. My own bestseller-in-waiting has undergone a whole pile of revisions, bounced back and forth between different publishers, been sent to various colleges and universities to see if they wanted to make it a prescribed text, and – long story short – although everyone agreed it was a good idea in theory, there’s no money anywhere to carry it forwards into print (note a pattern emerging there?)
I still believe – and so do a good many other people – that in some form or another the manuscript would provide a very handy set of tools for able learners doing higher-level certificates; students who are working towards an undergraduate or post-graduate qualification; educators/faculty themselves; as well as consultants and others who must write for a living.
So, rewind: …if you think this is something your own company can get behind, then please do let me know!