Tanzania must revisit its entire book policy and come up with a holistic strategy for revitalizing the industry, which is a strong foundation for enhancing positive and sustainable national development.
Participants in a dialogue organized by the Kilimanjaro Dialogue Institute (KDI) in Dar es Salaam to mark the World Book Day & Copyright agreed in unison that at this point in time, there was nothing tangible taking place in the direction of upholding the book industry in Tanzania.
In essence, Tanzania was devoid of live examples but exhibited insurmountable hurdles in the context of this year’s “Share a Book” theme announced by UNESCO.
Lead discussant, veteran teacher, fairy tales writer and renowned columnist in various mainstream newspapers, Richard Mabala, observed that publishing was a big task; citing the once-upon-a-time input of a Canadian-assisted (CODE) scheme, which supported book publishers.
He said besides the market problem facing the industry, sometimes even the few copies that filter in are hit by piracy. Writers end up being engaged in subsistence activities, calling for government intervention to stem piracy in the bud.
The education system is also to blame when students are required by teachers to stop wasting time on reading story books. This method of “discipline, obedience and studies kills critical thinking and creativity.”
Questioning this approach, Mabala reminded participants of one mother who went to Albert Einstein asking what she could do to make her ten-year-old child like him. Einstein’s answer was: “Give him the fairly tales.” The mother came back to him later seeking for another advice because her efforts had not yielded fruits. Einstein this time told her: “Buy more fairly tales books for him.”
Mabala observed that in principle, if one does not read critical thinking and creativity are difficult to come by. Reading leads to knowledge and is a positive contributor to the development of democracy.
Targeting one of the participants, a veteran journalist, Mabala pleaded: “Mzee (Elder) Kaiza, please write your biography. When one old man dies one library burns down into ashes.”
During his winding up remarks to the session chaired by KDI Secretary General, Hassan Mzighani, Mabala recommended the establishment of private publishing services and advised book writers to seek private editors’ services to cut down costs.
Children’s book writer, Nahida Ismail, supported this idea saying it was also one of the ways for improving the quality of manuscripts.
Young book and writers’ enthusiast, Viola Ephraim, queried: “Where are the books? It’s not that we don’t like them. No. Give us what we want to read.”
She, however, expressed regrets at what she called online books, denying authors the worth of their sweat. “Today I planned to buy three books. When I contacted friends, I got two copies via internet. I ended up buying only one.”