Parley to hear publishers

LOCAL publishers, who have complained about discrimination which favours foreign owned publishing firms,   will now be heard by the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology to discuss the role of book publication and distribution in the education sector.

According to the Clerk of the National assembly, the publishers were requested to submit 15 copies of memorandum on the topic with specific focus on the percentage of their business that was related to production of educational material for the Ministry of Education.

The committee would also focus on the challenges being faced between book publishers, distributors and the education sector and also the proposed solutions to the challenges highlighted.

There had been a rift between the Ministry of Education and the local publishers where they were challenging the ministry in the manner they were awarding contracts to foreign publishers at the expense of the locals.

The situation had worked to the disadvantage of the local publishers that saw the country losing colossal sums of money which local publishers felt would have remained in the country rather than benefitting foreign countries.

According to the local publishers, the results of the tender justified their fears as the winners of the tender were questionable because some companies were new, while others were not even registered as publishers in Zambia but instead were using bookseller’s names to participate in the tender.

The local publishers also argued that the Ministry of Education operated outside the policy to facilitate the tender because the procurement process that saw change from decentralized to centralized procurement was not communicated or discussed with the stakeholders but unilaterally implemented by the Ministry of Education.

The publishers suggested that the Ministry of Education should revert to the decentralized textbook procurement system and strengthen the purchase and supply of textbooks to all public learning institutions.

“The main point for decentralizing the textbook procurement is to make sure that schools themselves participate in the selection of books they want to use rather than was a case where procurement officers are at the centre of choosing the textbooks.”

The publishers said the publishing industry was an income generating industry in Zambia, saying the decision by the Ministry of Education to award contracts to foreign companies had attracted the loose of more than 2000 local jobs.

They wanted experts made up of academicians to determine if really Zambian publishers were incapable of producing textbooks when they had done so for decades before.