school books

Cameroon: The difficulties facing the book sector


The one-book-per-subject policy. The controversy over educational books has necessitated the introduction of the policy of one book per subject in schools in Cameroon.

Previously, the old policy proposed 3 or 4 books for each discipline, and the authorities should choose one for their establishments. Those in favor of the one-book policy pointed out that the measure was intended to ban the sale of books in schools and reduce parents' expenditure on the purchase of books. Four years after the introduction of this policy, we see that the idea of ​​reducing the price of textbooks was a strategy designed for personal interests. The old policy based on choosing one book from several encouraged competition and excellence. At the time, several books were written with various contents, designs, styles and prices. The local print shops had a lot of work. The illustrators were doing pretty well. Writers and editors too. It was a booming business, creating employment opportunities for booksellers, book distributors and printers. 70% of the books were printed by local printers.

Then, an inappropriate strategy emerged when certain actors proposed a destructive policy to the Prime Minister. This has led to job losses, capital flight (90% of books are now printed in Asia), books written by amateurs, a decline in individual research, the banning of booklets activities, atlases, dictionaries, and interference in the Anglo-Saxon system, et cetera.


With the implementation of the One Book Policy, a new pricing law was imposed on publishers regardless of market rules. Books that were sold at 3500 FCFA for example, are now sold at 1800 FCFA. The consequences of these bad policies are numerous:

Publishers with the books on the program can no longer make a profit if they produce locally. They have their books printed in Asia where printing prices are relatively low. This caused remarkable bankruptcy of local publishers and layoffs of employees. There is also capital flight as large sums of money are sent overseas for printing.

Booksellers have also been seriously affected by the reduction in book prices. Discounts are reduced, decreasing the profit margin. Several fired their employees, others closed their structures because they could no longer manage salaries, rentals and taxes.

Faced with the increase in customs duties on paper and printing materials, local publishing houses are encountering many difficulties. They are forced to increase the price of books to be able to compensate for production expenses.


The National Council for the Accreditation of Textbooks and Teaching Materials has misunderstood its role as regulator of textbooks and books. He urged law enforcement to punish anyone in possession of the unauthorized books. Several books were seized by the police and gendarmes. The owners got their books back after negotiations.


Parents, pupils, students, teachers and the general public now believe that only the books on the program are the best.

Parents no longer see the need to buy books that are not on the curriculum for their children. The reading culture is irretrievably destroyed.
Publishers are afraid to publish books that will be seized by law enforcement.

Publishers see no point in publishing poems, plays, short stories, biblical literature etc., for education, teaching, and entertainment.

It is very clear that the National Textbook Approval Council wants to limit the acquisition of knowledge, and this means the non-respect of human rights.


Proponents of the one book policy are naturally large; they seem to be totally against the idea of ​​decentralization. They despise the authorities of the country's educational establishments. They despise the secretariats of Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, etc. education. They impose books on the educational boards of the aforementioned Christian churches. They mingled with the Anglo-Saxon education system by merging geography and history into one subject (an imitation of the Francophone system). The One Book Policy has prohibited the inclusion of activity booklets in schools. This means that assessments will be hampered because the booklets will no longer be used to extend acquired knowledge. In several books in the program, we see three or four exercises after each module.

Any teacher knows that these exercises are not enough to guarantee good understanding. Even more serious is the prohibition of dictionaries, atlases, vocabulary and sound books, and also books on arts and crafts, theatre, music (all of which are not on the official list). But, curiously, the pedagogical inspectors ask teachers to resource themselves via the Internet or to look for the appropriate books in bookstores. How many teachers use the internet for research? How many go to bookstores to get reference books?

Incomprehensible scenarios: Some pedagogical inspectors went to search the bags of students in several schools. We wonder if this is legal. The purpose of the search was to find the booklets, dictionaries, atlases, etc., and of course, to sanction the schools that prescribe such books. Whereupon they refuse to fill in the visitors' book. The national textbook council must review its mode of operation.


The pretext of helping parents by reducing the price of books is a dream. If this was a valid strategy, what are the measures taken against the differences in schooling between different schools? There are schools that take 500frs as tuition and others 000frs. What has been done to harmonize this? Do parents have the same means? Why pick on wealthy parents who can afford to buy the necessary educational tools for their children? Several countries have responded to this concern by subsidizing the book industry. International voluntary agencies assist in this area, but care must be taken that they do not impose their own agenda on a country's policy. In addition, exemption from taxes and customs duties on the importation of paper and other printing materials are methods used by several countries as a solution to this problem. Why are we putting in place old book policies designed to destroy the foundations of an entire country's education?


The book review process is marked by inconsistent practices:
Lack of qualified consultants: Most of those at the head of the board are university professors. They are not suited to manage the basic education sector because they lack knowledge of pedagogy at this level. They sometimes collaborate with the basic education inspectors, but the collaboration is that of a chief and his servant or the chief speaks and the servant is content to listen. The relationship between these college teachers and publishers, writers, and booksellers isn't always the best. Book evaluation sessions must be done in the presence of parents, teachers, publishers and writers.
Several books on the program are contested by their users: teachers, students and researchers. The reasons for these challenges are varied: the books do not meet the demands of their users; they do not conform to the requirements of the curricula; they lack depth; their content is insufficient; editors use colorful illustrations to camouflage reviewers, etc. Thus, the user is not able to get another book for fear of breaking the law. Teachers keep complaining about the demerited books in the curriculum. Examples abound: poorly illustrated literature books, books full of grammatical and spelling errors, etc.


It is here that we clearly see that the national book council in Cameroon is not fully playing its role. Most members are authors. They are judges and parties. And this explains why little-known and newly created publishing houses thrive at the expense of more experienced and old ones. Some are barely 3 years old and already have six or more books on the official list.

Kingsley Abeng (civil society actor)

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