"The 1990's are going to be extremely challenging to South African authors and publishers, full of exciting opportunities, especially in education -- the one most crucially important problem that has to be resolved if our future is to be worth having."

-- David Philip, Logos, 1991

The challenge for all African publishers is encouraging new readers. This means everything from coloring books to literature to the sciences, in print, audio, video and even CD-ROM, but most critical are textbooks and readers for children and adults.

PW found imaginative materials springing up in a wide variety of sources, rich veins of African originality of such high quality they could win prizes at Bologna (and do). The job is just beginning, however, and the problems are cultural more than technical.

"It is difficult to develop first language teaching in local languages," says Dumisani Ntshangase, in charge of primary education and teacher training programs in the African languages for Juta, the country's biggest indigenous academic house. "The Bantu educational system destroyed our souls, giving us a low opinion of our black languages. The quality of the books was poor, the art work and paper inferior. As a result Africans put English first in importance, then the dominant language of their area, then their mother tongue.

"In order to change this attitude we have to provide books that kids will love to read. Create these books in the African languages, then you will be able to get them hooked on reading. You can see this already, with better books coming out in the last two or three years. Multicultural means more than black and white, it means multiple languages and cultures."

Like most publishers, Ntshangase, who lectured in African languages at the University of Witswatersrand and also studied in the USA, is positive.

"Generally, I think we are getting there. It's amazing how culturally and politically we have changed. I predict that in two or three years' time, as the system opens up, the richness of print in this country will be unbelievable and will be a model to the rest of Africa."

Dumisani laughs at himself. "I know it sounds missionary, but it's true."

People across the political spectrum in publishing are pulling together to make South Africa work.

Heinemann Publishers Pty Ltd., among the largest half dozen textbook publisher in the country is half owned by the powerful CNA/Gallo group of book retail and distribution outlets. Before 1990, they started a series of history books outside of the old curriculum that is now called "Hidden Histories". One of the first was by author and anti-apartheid publisher, Karen Press.

"School books up to last year really told a very biased view of history," Press told PW. "But everybody is doing what we can to make the changes. When I was with Buchu Books, we did a lot of oppositional publishing because we were marginal and free. We were never market oriented, we were supported by donors and we knew we had a limited life.

"But publishing is a commercial activity, and the educational market is enormously bigger than trade, here. The big publishers are moving into what we did before, with a quite new style of commissioning and writing. Everybody is pushing everyone forward.

"I couldn't say the new Government curriculum initiatives are publisher-driven, but they are inspired by what some of the publishers are producing. 'Hidden Histories' will influence the new history course curriculum."

Heinemann recently started a young adult literature series, Gap Books, which has some of the same philosophies as their Hidden Histories and offer a cross over readers series for newly literates.

The largest black languages textbook publisher under the Bantu education system was Via Afrika and its associated companies, an affiliation of 51% black-owned publishing companies around the country that began in 1975. The other 49% of these associate companies are owned by the National Educational Group (NEG), part of Nasionale Pers, the largest media group in the country and the dominant force in the publishing field, before and after the Nationalists. NEG had a $70 million turnover last year, including Via Afrika and Nasou, the formerly white education arm of NEG.

With a list of 2200 titles in the 11 languages and 350 authors, Via Afrika has a head start in the translation and production of black language educational materials, at least. They are merging with Nasou and offering 50% of the shares to a consortium of black business people.

"Our content and presentation will now be judged by the outcome of the learner," says Nasou GM Louis Naude. "Instead of regurgitation of facts, students must develop analytical skills. It is a much better approach, but the problem is not so much for the publishers as for the teachers who at present lack the skills for this kind of teaching and evaluation."

There were nearly 12 million full-time students in South Africa in 1994, the last figures available according to EduSource in Johannesburg, and 370,000 teachers. That leaves South Africa with one of the world's worst student/teacher ratios, and while the Government is trying to improve that and retrain the existing teachers, publishers are also pitching in.

Maskew-Miller, a major local educational publisher now over 100 years old, merged with the Longman Group in 1983, making MML one of the largest textbook publishers in the country. They also have a long history in the black languages, including teacher training, adult distance learning and tertiary materials.

Versions of their "Day by Day English" series, originally developed by Longman Zimbabwe, are found in every Anglophone country in Africa, according to MD Mike Peacock, and the most popular such series to come out of Africa. Peacock, who came from the Longman side of the merger, sees a far greater role for publishers, now.

"The classroom must become a place where teachers can help students develop self-confidence, express their feelings and opinions, and develop their abilities to think critically and creatively," says Peacock. "So we have to make new educational approaches accessible to teachers, as well as get feedback from them on how to make these new ideas work. We can't wait for the education authorities to do everything."

Two programs encouraging reading are the MML Young Africa Series, being developed as a reading-for-pleasure approach to young readers, and the African Heritage literature series, geared more for schools prescriptions. Some of these are a result of the African Heritage Literature competition in the nine African languages, launched in 1993.

Last year Maskew-Miller Longman joined up with Sached Books to develop books for adult new readers.

"The Sached Trust had been publishing innovative and learning-centered materials for adults for more than 15 years," says Peacock. "We established the partnership to expand on those materials, and to publish new research and policy studies in the area of adult education and for small business development."

MML made a more radical move last year when they sold half the company to Khula Educational Investments. KEI is jointly owned by Khula Investment Trust and CTP Holdings, a printing and publishing giant in the country.

"We feel that for all people to share in the wealth of our nation, more black South Africans need to gain access to ownership and management of business," says Peacock. "To be an effective and credible player in education equity has to be divided. And frankly our original shareholders were willing to take a smaller piece of a bigger pie. This is not tokenism."

In Namibia, Longman is also beginning to do African language fiction and in Zimbabwe, Longman runs neck and neck with Macmillan for control of the market. The Macmillan operations in the region are also partly independently-owned in each country, but consolidated into Macmillan Southern Africa and coordinated by Christopher Paterson in London. They have built a presence in the region for nearly 20 years with partners in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

"We publish in no less than 25 languages," says Paterson, "And we provide seminars for growing numbers of teachers annually, distributing books directly to schools to some of the remotest parts of the sub-continent," he said.

In Namibia, Gamsberg Macmillan dominates a small but challenging market, a vast country with just 1.5 million people, where 55% of the population makes less than $80 a year.

A 50/50 joint venture with local publishing powerhouse, Herman van Wyk, who founded the Gamsberg part 20 years ago, the company is totally vertically integrated, from printing through distribution to retailing. Production ranges from little photocopied and stapled booklets that serve local needs affordably to stunning, hard-covered full-color titles that "wave the flag" for Namibia and are printed in Cape Town and Hong Kong.

Their newest venture is Out of Africa Publishers, under the direction of Peter Reiner, doing African language textbooks, exclusively, and in some cases actually in competition with the parent company. With 13 languages and a constantly changing syllabus, Reiner is grateful for the in-house short-run production skills accessible to him via a perfector copy printer.

Like South Africa, Namibia has a committment to education in the local languages, in this case 13 of them, sharing only two with their neighbors: English and Afrikaans. But they are further down the road of education reform, and have teacher training materials and low cost production options just beginning to take off elsewhere. In Zimbabwe, the College Press, another joint-venture with Macmillan, also dominates the market, though they have to share the stage with Longman here.

In Johannesburg, PW met with Macmillan Boleswa Publishers Group MD Luchi Balarin and Sales Director Darkie Moloantoa. "The old DET rejected our programs," Balarin recalls, "because they were multifaceted and black culture encompassing, so we created a new marketing system. We developed what we call Teacher Support Units, which trained teachers in ELT and then encouraged them to use our books. We can train 30,000 teachers in one year now, and our share of the ELT market is 60-70%. And teacher training continues, of course, as an important component of the business, especially now with the enormous pre- and in-service training needed in the markets. We'll be providing training for some ofo the African languages as well. We've already done Setswana in Botswana and Siswati in Swaziland."

In July 95 the company became part of the Georg von Holtzbrinck GMBH group in Stuttgart, Germany (who also own Scientific American, W.H. Freeman and Henry Holt in the USA), so Macmillan Southern Africa has some natural synergies.

"We license product from the other Macmillan companies around Africa, especially from Zimbabwe, where the educational standards are higher than they are here," says Moloantoa. "For example, we use ELT to teach about AIDS. Some of our materials have been adopted in Kenya, Uganda, even Papua New Guinea...it's growing rapidly."

Macmillan recently acquired 100% of Nolwazi, a new imprint which also publishes political nonfiction, though a recent attempt to bring the black publishing house, Skotaville, into the fold fell through.

With a presence in South Africa since 1915, Oxford University Press is now the largest of the "medium" sized publishers in South Africa, thanks in part to McCallum's recent efforts.

"We started local publishing in 1947," says McCallum. "And we now have an extensive local publishing program in academic, educational and general books, at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, with 550 titles covering all 11 languages."

With the need for revised history texts in advance of state approval systems, OUP began extensive workshops with history teachers and educational planners, producing experimental materials on what and how history should now be taught, with an enthusiastic reaction from teachers. This year, the Department of Education approved those materials for the new list.

Kagiso Publishers is the new name and structure of a 102-year-old educational publisher, Haum, 50% of whose shares were bought two and a half years ago by Kagiso Trust Investments. One of the top three educational publishers in the country, and the largest in the Afrikaans language, Kagiso has a jump start. They just merged with Perskor, another educational publishing house to become the largest in South Africa and the biggest company in the country under black ownership control.

With a new commitment to making education accessible to all South Africans, the stockholders appointed Lindelwe Mabandla as Managing Director. Mabandla was education advisor of the ANC in exile.

"Obviously, in practical terms, publishing in 11 languages is going to be expensive," Mabandla told PW. "But it is our attempt to encourage universal literacy. We are doing a lot in adult literacy programs, as well. The Government put up 50 million rand (US$12 million) last year for adult literate and numerate programs, in all 11 languages. In October we teamed up with Project Literacy, an NGO with a good track record. We are producing the materials together and using our market infrastructure to go nationwide with them.

"Right now, the number one language in the country is English, number two is Afrikaans, but that will change. Ten years from now, English will be the language of commerce world-wide and we want to strengthen the marginalized languages of our county by developing their own literature."

Cambridge University Press won the IBBY-Asahi Award for the Promotion of Reading at Bologna this year for "The Little Library" teaching project, developed in South Africa.

"The project grew from an initiative to publish high quality, accessible and inexpensive picture books for South African children," according to Sue Hepker, who started the project in 1993 with funding aid from the Liberty Life Foundation.

"So far we have done two programs: literacy and numeracy," says Tony Seddon, the Director of Cambridge University Press in Cape Town. In addition to books, posters and activity cards, there are audiotapes, songs, games and puppet plays evolved from the stories in each "kit". They have been translated into eight and nine of the South African languages, respectively.

As a visit to the Zimbabwe Book Fairwould quickly show, not all that is exciting and innovative in educational and reading materials in Africa is coming from the major publishers. A wild flurry of small houses is storming the market.

New Namibia Books is giving Gamsberg Macmillan a run for their money. Owner and MD Jane Katjavivi copublishes with Heinemann Educational in the UK science and health titles for the schools. "This way we get international publishing and design experience," says Katjavivi, who has a career background in UK publishing herself.

Breaking new ground on the Namibian publishing scene, NNB now promotes Namibian literature and culture as well, including African language literature, encouraging writers, particularly women writers. Katjavivi helped establish the Association of Namibian Publishers, the Namibian Book Development Council. She is Southern African representative for APNET and on the Management Council of ABC.

In South Africa, the book market is helped enormously by privately funded organizations like the READ Educational Trust, which is improving book access for children thoughout the country with remarkable success is READ. As Patron-in-Chief of this year's READathon Week in September, President Nelson Mandela personally backs their work and librarians PW spoke with swear by them.

A 14-year-old teacher training and library service with 11 centers around the country, READ brings colorful "library in a box" crates into the classrooms, filled with appropriate titles and available for the children during school hours. They teach teachers and encourage story-telling, an important part of rural life in South Africa and an important link to the reading habit.

READ has proven how their programs raise test scores in schools. And they assist the market for these titles with assessment services for publishers, library cataloguing, processing and reinforcing and of course, distribution and delivery. A new associated organization, ERA (Easy Reading for Adults), with their own book boxes, performing a similar distribution and promotion function but for adults.

READ also supports the Book Development Council of South Africa with administrative and secretarial services.

When Tafelburg published their first supplemental reader, Stories South of the Sun in the African languages, they donated 20,000 copies to READ. Among the exciting materials in the READ boxes are the products of some of the smaller publishers. Cyril Turton, Marketing Officer of the Handspring Trust for Puppetry in Education, explained how his company has just expanded their dramatic activities to comic books on science subjects. They sell for $2 and will be followed by video and audio versions.

Bronwen Jones runs Ithemba! Publishing out of her home, with coloring books that also tell stories about the various Southern African tribes and illustrated bilingual storybooks in the major African languages. While she complains that conventional retail outlets exclude small publishers such as herself, she d s use organizations like READ successfully.

"I've been giving books free to squatter camps and try to work on a long term strategy that they will want them and then demand them from the distributors," she says. But in networking with others like herself around Africa, she is encouraged.

Jones works closely with the Children's Book Forum in Johannesburg. A consortium of librarians, booksellers, teachers, authors, illustrators, translators, publishers and parents, they strive to stimulate and sustain interest in reading and books in the country, from ages 0 to 18, the Forum has eight branches around the country and represents South Africa on the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

The Forum works closely with Jay Heale, publisher of Bookchat a kind of PW quarterly for children's books in South Africa going for 20 years. With over 700 subscribers among libraries, schools, educational organizations and parents. Heale also publishes his own personal favorites as "Bookchat Awards" annual and serves as a juryman for the 1996 Hans Christian Andersen Awards.

Another member of the Children's Book Forum is Isobel Randall, an award winning writing and illustratation for children, as well as wife to one of the founders of Ravan Press.(see literary section of this report).

She edited and designed the new Fountain Books series for Fountain Press, an imprint of Hodder and Stoughton, the South African branch of the UK company. "There are not enough books available or affordable yet," she says.

South Africa's most famous children's book artist, Niki Daly, whose career began when he was living in the UK, has returned home to Cape Town where he and his wife Jude have done a great deal of work teaching children's book art skills. In 1993 Daly launched Songololo, the juvenile imprint of David Philip Publishers. "We wanted to provide for South African children specifically," says Daly. "But while we had the local market in mind, we hoped to interest overseas publishers too, and several have made co-publishing arrangements."

Zann Hoad at Jacana Education publishes lovely eco-tourism titles on the various game parks around South Africa, often with the help of the World Wildlife Fund. (The Jacana is a South African bird. The female has several partners at a time and somehow persuades each male to sit on his eggs and attend to his young.) But their main work is in primary health care guides for second language English speakers, and they look to related industries for sponsorhip. Their mother and child health handbook ran to 750,000 copies with funding from Nestle. A "Primary Clinical Care Manual" designed for nurses and sponsored by Smith, Kline, Beecham has been prescribed by many of the nursing colleges in the country, says Hoad, and will go into an international edition with the sponsor's help, now.

Johnson & Johnson subsidizes "Pregnancy, Labor and Early Baby Care" which is distributed by the government and has 350,000 in print, so far. "Primary AIDS Care" is coming out next, with several small sponsors, AIDS being an enormous health problem in much of Southern Africa.

Karin Griessel, Linde Woolley and Kevin French went to the Small Business Administration to get funding for ViVa Books! in Johannesburg. They have 23 books to date, geared to the newly literature, some of them co-published and most of them with corporate sponsorship.

"We wanted to give new readers good, inexpensive books, so we adapted some of the best South African stories by people like Bessie Head and Es'kia Mphahlele," says Wooley. They create books on cultural her s in the townships, written in simple English. They have also found a niche in teacher training.

"Many adult teachers only get two weeks training before they begin," says Woolley. "So we also develop teacher training materials to help them teach, using our books in the classroom."

Peppercorn is ViVa's USA agent and Woolley reports that Americans are drawn to their striking covers and dramatic stories.