In March of this year, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) called on publishers to submit literary texts in Kiswahili and English for evaluation for possible use in the system. education of the country.
Among other requirements, a literary text had to be submitted without the title of the work, the name of the author as well as that of the publisher. In addition, a text had to be submitted in a spiral bound Times New Roman 12 point format.
To meet this requirement, if a publisher wanted to submit literary text already on the market, they had to convert the text to the required font size and create spiral-bound manuscripts. To meet these requirements, editors whose texts were published years ago and therefore did not have electronic copies of the texts, found it necessary to enter their texts in order to create Times New Roman manuscripts. 12 point spiral binding.
Another requirement of the new way of doing things at KICD is that in addition to publishers submitting spiral-bound copies to the institution, they also had to pay Sh 140,000 for the evaluation of each text.
In addition, publishers were required to submit financial proposals in which they indicated the price they would sell the book to the Government of Kenya if the book passed the technical and financial evaluations of the proposals.
Finally, if a text passed both evaluations, the editor would be required to pay an additional 100,000 shillings to the KICD for what the institution called âcorrectionsâ.
These requirements had no exceptions. They would apply at all levels, whether a publisher submits a newly created text or old texts such as No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe, Utengano by Said Ahmed Mohamed and The Concubine by Elechi Amadi.
According to the KICD, the new measures have been introduced to allow a fair evaluation of the texts. This is why, depending on the institution, the names of the author and the publisher, the title of the text and any other characteristics that could lead to the identification of the text should be omitted.
If this requirement were intended for newly created texts, it might have been possible to avoid identifying works with their authors and publishers. However, as I have already pointed out, the requirement had no exceptions.
Hiding author names
And this is where things start to confuse a lot of people. Would the conversion of Mikhail Gogol’s Government Inspector or Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People prevent the elders of literature from identifying texts with their authors and publishers?
Wouldn’t a Kiswahili expert hired as an evaluator by the KICD recognize Kifo Kisimani from Kithaka wa Mberia, Mashetani from Ebrahim Hussein or Masaibu ya Ndugu Jero from Wole Soyinka for the reason that they are reading a spiral-bound text, similar to a manuscript?
And, assuming a Romeo and Juliet editor submits the text removing both Shakespeare’s name and the publisher’s name, what would the editor do with the Romeo and Juliet characters in the text?
Okay, we have a malignant tumor of corruption in this country. But is hiding the names of authors and publishers the best way to ensure fairness in the evaluation of books? Don’t our referees manage football matches fairly without players having to wear balaclavas and overcoats to hide their identity?
Aren’t some of the same people who review the books for the KICD speaking out at the Kenya Music Festival and the Schools and Colleges Drama and Film Festival? Do they not deliver credible verdicts in the performances without having to keep the names of the participating schools secret? In our courts, does the judiciary not listen to cases, arrive at a fair decision and render credible judgments despite the fact that they can clearly see the faces of litigants?
In addition, there are many competitions, both local and international, where books are evaluated for prizes. None of these contests require that the names of authors, publishers, and countries of publication be withheld before books are submitted for contests.
So, if I may say so, what is so extraordinary about the evaluation of literary texts and collector’s books in this country to force publishers to convert literary texts that are sometimes centuries old into anonymous bookbinding manuscripts? spiral?
Regarding the requirement that texts be submitted in Times New Roman 12 point font, where did that come from? Do students of formulas three and four need such fonts? Let’s accept it because it is a fact, among the institutions in Kenya apart from the universities, KICD is one of the entities with very highly qualified staff.
Institutional staff have solid academic credentials capable of conducting credible research. Is the requirement to have literary ensemble books in Times new Roman 12 point font a result of the institution’s research? I highly doubt it. The decision is more likely the product of an individual’s whim – a whim that is extremely costly to publishers but of no value to learners.
Thinking about fonts and the length of books perhaps brings me to a more disturbing point. Since text length is one of the parameters for evaluation, we should not be surprised that if a Times New Roman 12 point reprint of An Enemy of People is submitted for evaluation for a potential inclusion in books of English literature, it will be excluded from the school system on the grounds that it is too long for a dramatic work! I said maybe; I do not know.
But consider Bertolt Breched’s The Caucasian Circle which in the past has been a fixed book in Kenya. If the last edition used in our school system is converted to 12 point Times New Roman, the artificial length of the coin will increase to approximately 180 pages. My bet is that, based on the advice of literary reviewers, KICD won’t hit the book with a long pole. Why? Because the book is too long to be studied in schools!
In the financial proposal segment of the tender for textbooks, the cheapest text was to be awarded the maximum 20 percent, which, together with the 80 percent reserved for technical evaluation, means the total scores to 100 percent.
The puzzling implication of this arrangement is that a poorer book might outperform, in points, the best text in terms of technical evaluation which included such elements as theme, plot, characterization, use of language and values. In such a case, the best rated text, no matter how artistically mediocrity, wins as a specification for our children.
When you or I go to a store, do we declare the cheapest dress or shirt as the best outfit, choose it, and rush to the cashier holding our wallet? And yet we are screaming from the rooftops for a skills-based agenda to make Kenyans able to support themselves and the economy through self-employment.
Is forcing mediocre literary works on high school students the best way to nurture future poets, playwrights and novelists? Is the intention of the national government to buy books at half the price of a plate of crisps the best way to get people to take pens and put them on paper?
The writer is author and publisher