[EN] Interview with Mr. Buma Kor on the one book policy in Cameroon - by Forben Chesly
Mr. Buma Kor as a publisher on the development side brings up some challenges regarding the PM decree. According to him, this decree is likely to succeed because is a long term policy.
Interview by Forben Chesly, May 2018
What is your opinion on the new decision of the Prime Minister of Cameroon concerning the school? How sure are you that the one book policy will succeed despite the fact that it failed in other African countries ?
We cannot at this point talk of whether it will succeed or not but it is all our wish that it succeed, even though the one book policy has a number of problems and these problems are coming from various quarters. From the point of view of the publishers, teachers and also that of the market. We are in a situation where the one book policy has been instituted by the Prime Minister because of some reasons. We didn’t have this policy before, it was a multiply book policy. The one book policy is something that has been there more than 30 years ago but it was abandoned because of these problems that we are facing. So, we wish that in reinstituting the one book policy, it is a hope that it should succeed.
The multiple book policy had a number of problems as well and I think the PM instituting this one book policy at this time is to correct the mistakes of the multiple book policy and the corruption that has gotten into the system. It is my wish that it should succeed but I also wish that this one book policy this time should not be for a long term. Because the one book policy is good to correct certain things that had been going on with the old policy but it should not be forever. I hope that after these corrects have been made, they can bring back the multiple book policy in a proper way so it should be good for everybody.
I also think that the one book policy was instituted because of the cry of parents. A lot of parents buy a number of books for one subject and you see children carrying heavy bags with many books even primary and nursery school pupils carrying heavy bag of books, it was too much for parents. And that came as a reason of certain people not doing their jobs especially the schools and the teachers. The schools are supposed to select of the old system one book out of the three recommended books but the teachers were not doing their jobs, parents went to bookshops and bought books as it was listed on the booklist. I think the one book policy will succeed to correct what has been going wrong and we should quickly come back to the multiple book policy and correct everything.
Given that only one publisher will be selected what will happen to the other publishers ?
I think that is where we will have to wait and see, I can’t now say but the danger of the one book policy is part of that. Because so many publishers have submitted, they have gone under the contract to submit books and unfortunately if they are not selected, they will just wait for next term. And that is where the one book policy cry is for publishers because the publisher who have spent quite a lot of money to produce books to submit for the tender, if he is not selected it may be the end of his career. Imagine publishers who have submitted 5-10 book on the booklist and only one or two is chosen what will happen to the rest of the books? So these are one of the problems we have to sort out.
Given that the PM said the one book policy will be renewed after a period of six years (long-term) don’t you think it will increase piracy?
Firstly, my point of view is that the one book policy should not be for a long term because, the disadvantage is devastating and psychological for the people learning. If you are being taught by only one teacher, you have only one way of thinking and that is not good for the students because in a subject if you have several teachers teaching your from one level to the other; you change methods , teachers and environment. Secondly, about piracy, the government by putting in place this one book policy is seriously thinking about piracy. That is why they are asking the publishers to state where they printed their books, is it in Europe, in Cameroon or wherever, they should let the commission know. So the government is putting in place mechanism to check piracy. But we equally hope that the piracy doesn’t raise it useless head.
But Mamadou et Benita alongside the Oxford readers lasted for long why don’t you think the one book policy will not follow suite?
Talking of Mamadou et Benita we make allusion to the Oxford readers, we used the oxford reader throughout; but note that the period of Mamadou et Benita is not the period of today. Methodology have changed, and the children of today don’t think the way we used to think. Today the educational system is evolving and we should evolve with time that is why we cannot only depend on one book. Because several teachers are bringing several methods even though we talk about the “competent base approach” now, but many teachers use the competent base method to teach their students. That is how books are also written, on different approaches and methods to enable children understand the subject. A book can be on the same subject but presented in two different ways, one student will like one method the other student will like the other.
That is why we are saying that the old system has passed we are in a new dispensation, the methodology of yesteryears is no more what we have today so let us evolve with time. It was good that Mamadou et Benita and the oxford readers lasted that time but those were longtime in the 40s, 50s, and the 60s and since then we are now in the 2000s, we are talking about some 50 years back. The methodology of teaching has changed, the psychology of students is not like they were before, so do not compare the old from the new.
Do you think there is any printer in Cameroon who will be able to print books for the entire country within this length of time still September?
Firstly am a publisher on the development side, and publishing is not all bout producing and marketing but publishing is also about developing minds, citizenship and developing the country. I will encourage the printing of books within the country, because when we print within the country, especially with this one book policy now it is going to increase the level of our professionals.
The printing today is not very good, there are not many printers who can print books in the quality we want, but the few we have can do a good job. With the one book policy, if we print within the country, many commercial people will invest in the printing sector.
Printing is machine, but printing is also the knowledge, so if we print locally we will be able to invest in our country. Take example a book that is printed in 100 copies with 100 pages, do you know how many people will be employed? And printing is one of the sectors which is labor intensive it need a lot of labor. If we can encourage our printers with a new system, and that is where we come to talk about the one book policy who should give incentives to the players of the book sector to get into the book profession and ameliorate it.
Now it will be difficult but in the future it will be better because more professionals will come and invest in the printing sector.