TETFund: Revamping Local Publishing of Books, by Rahma Oladosu
To be better equipped for the tests that the years in school will bring, read a textbook. To prepare for the tests that life will bring, read a book. The importance of books in general cannot be over emphasised.
Generally, around 130 million books have been published in the history of humanity; a heavy reader will at best get through 6,000 in a lifetime. Most of them won’t be much fun or very memorable. Books are like people; we meet many but fall in love with few. Perhaps only thirty books will ever truly mark us. They will be different for each of us, but the way in which they affect us will be similar.
Book is a fountain for national integration and development, the grand index of technology, government, politics, religion, economy, sociology, medicine, engineering to mention a few. It is a veritable source of information to teachers and students, a goldmine of knowledge for researchers and scholars, and a fountain of pleasure and leisure to general readers.
Now, the quality, quantity and diversity of books produced by a society are important indicators of that society’s level of development. This is solely because a book is seen as a catalyst for mental growth and social integration.
Having laid enough emphasis on books and its importance, Book Publishing holds the most importance because the book publishing industry has a tremendous impact on the society. According to Lai Oso (2000), “Book Publishing is a serious business, a benchmark of a nation’s education, one of the basement blocks in cultural building, and an important index of national development.” Book Publishing is an effective vehicle for development and positive change in the behavioural attitude of the people. It is the nerve centre of education and it helps people to gain full control of their environment.
Looking back, the history of Book Publishing in Nigeria can be traced to the establishment of the very first publishing press in Calabar, in 1846, by Rev. Hope Waddel of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Mission. The Press was used to print Bible lessons and later arithmetic books for schools. In 1854, another missionary based in Abeokuta, Rev. Henry Townsend, of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), established a Press. Five years later, in 1859, he used it to print the very first newspaper in Nigeria, Iwe Irohin. Thereafter, notable Nigerians like Herbert Macaulay established the first indigenous newspaper in 1926, called Lagos Daily News. Also in the same year, Daily Times made its debut.
In many Nigerian tertiary institutions, textbooks are the most used source of research but rarely do the students find comprehensive materials in our locally published textbooks and would most times proceed to make use of textbooks by foreign publishers. Textbook publishing is a holistic process which includes negotiation with authors and/or their agents, design of books in conjunction with printers, book production, publicity and sales through booksellers and retailers – collectively known as the book trade.
However, in the last two decades, the Nigerian indigenous publishing industry has experienced a downturn due to numerous challenges facing the industry. Nigeria now shares with other developing countries a variety of problems bedeviling the book publishing industry, including: inability to provide adequate numbers of high-quality books, book piracy, proliferation of unqualified author-publishers, lack of capital, and so on.
I believe the time is ripe for revamping academic textbook publishing in Nigeria in general and in the higher education sector in particular. It is therefore worth emphasising that ensuring quality research outputs from seasoned academics in credible textbooks with a reputable international standing is an entrepreneurial activity that requires nurturing beyond the current remits of textbook publishing in the country.
In recent times, a very popular misconception is that book publishing will die in the face of the on-going development in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). However, according to Oso, et al (2009), “Globally, traditional books will still be in use. In fact, electronic innovations will aid book publishing, it cannot kill it. It is therefore reasonable for publishers to think of how to apply the new technology to enhance book publishing.”
To put a total end to this misconception and in order to address the appalling book crisis in Nigeria’s university textbook insufficiency, plagiarism and breaches in copyrights, availability of home-grown quality publication is a sure first step. Taking this first step, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) through the ‘Higher Education Book Development Project’ recently sponsored the publication of ten books in different fields of study in the nation’s universities.
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who unveiled the books, said the Federal Government was working with a view to ending the dominance of foreign books in tertiary institutions across the country and further said that the dependence on foreign academic publications in tertiary institutions of learning portended great danger to the nation’s education sector, adding that boosting indigenous authorship would address this problem. While commending TETFund for establishing the project to tackle scarcity of tertiary level textbooks, the minister hailed the Fund for putting in place the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) whose mandate includes collaboratively working with the agency to ensure quality books are churned out by Nigerian authors.
Showing excitement in the progress of the project, the Executive Secretary of TETFund , Arc. Sonny Echono, expressed delight over the quality of the 10 books and said additional 30 books sponsored by the Fund would be unveiled before the end of the year. He assured of the readiness of the agency to sponsor production of 50 textbooks in 2023.
The fundamental purpose of book publishing is basically to extend the frontiers of knowledge from one generation to the other and to bring about continuous intellectual development. Publishing is channelled towards promoting learning and expanding knowledge. Based on this premise, the issue of book publishing must be taken more seriously than before.
However with TETFund’s Higher Education Book Development Project, it is safe to say that the Nigerian government has indeed borrowed a leaf from their foreign counterparts on book policies to encourage locally published textbooks for tertiary institutions
Rahma Olamide Oladosu is a Staff Writer with the Economic Confidential