Lungu urged to intervene in Textbook publishing row



ALMOST 2,000 jobs have been lost and another 2,000 more could have been created if the Government was giving textbook publishing contracts to indigenous Zambians, it has been learnt.

And the local industry has lost K12 million over the past two years that could have been reinvested by booksellers had the Ministry of Education not used underhand methods to exclude the locals from lucrative  publishing contracts.

Now desperate Zambian publishers who are being driven out of business by foreigners in what they allege is corruption in the Ministry of Education feel only President Edgar Lungu can intervene in the matter..

Publishers Association of Zambia vice chairperson Alice Mkandawire said President Lungu was geared to uplift the welfare of the Zambian people and he was the only authority who could intervene in the matter.

The Government was today expected to award a US$5 million text- book publishing contract to a Ugandan company allegedly fronted by a former civil servant who was fired by the Ministry of Education.

And another US$4 million would be awarded to four non-indigenous owned companies, including Oxford University Press, while only one Zambian company would be awarded a contract worth US$4,000.

Ms Mkandawire said the Ministry of Education did not understand the implications for the local people in awarding foreign companies contracts to publish textbooks at the expense of the locals.

She said the new policy by the ministry had resulted into Zambia losing colossal sums of money that should have contributed to the country’s economic growth.

“Does the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education realise how much money could have been saved and more books procured if this was done locally?” she asked.

Ms Mkandawire said what was happening at the Ministry of Education was questionable and needed only the President’s intervention because there were people who wanted to bring his name into disrepute by making decisions based on personal gain.

Ms Mkandawire said local publishers have lost huge sums of money, and that the Ministry of Education’s policy has also resulted into booksellers having lost about K12 million which could have been invested back in the industry in the last two years.

The publishers challenged the ministry to avail the nation the list of textbooks they have procured with names of authors’ country of origin, and an update of how many schools countrywide have received Grades 1, 5, 8 and 10 textbooks and what quantities per subject.

They also questioned why the ministry introduced dual evaluation for textbooks – one during tender for free and the other at a fee of K1, 400.

In 2014, local publishers were asked by the Ministry of Education to submit 10 textbooks in seven local languages which included five textbooks for teachers and another five for pupils, and were made to pay K1, 400 for each title.

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