On July 11th, 2008, at the Canadian High Commission in Tanzania, representatives from the education and cultural sectors, the news media, as well as publishers, editors and authors, joined CODE’s partner organization, the Children’s Book Project, and officials at the Canadian High Commission to celebrate the announcement of a new African Literature Award.
This award, coined the Burt Award for African Literature, is sponsored by CODE and has been in development for the last few months. Made possible through the generous support of an individual Canadian and CODE supporter, Bill Burt, it’s an award that was created to contribute to developing the language skills and the love of reading among Tanzanian youth for years to come.
Speaking to the Children’s Book Project’s Executive Secretary, Pilli Dumea, hours after the event, her excitement about the award was palpable. She reported that publishers, writers, and Ministry of Education officials are truly excited about this opportunity and they commended Canada’s and in particular CODE’s long-term support to education, literacy and the development of a reading culture in their country.
Tanzania has prioritized education in the last 8 years and has accomplished major achievements in the education sector, including the improved transition rate from primary to secondary school from 22% in 2000 to 67% in 2006. However, students who go on past primary school face a challenge as they transition from Kiswahili to English-language medium of instruction for secondary school, which ultimately has an affect on their success.
In 2007 Mr. Burt visited CODE’s partner organization in Ethiopia and his experience there helped solidify his belief that the availability of compelling, locally written, English language novels for adolescents will help youth strengthen their English language and reading skills and therefore improve their secondary school learning outcomes and performance. This is in line with CODE’s belief that there is a need to have a wide-range of appropriate and relevant reading materials available to foster a literate environment.
The announcement at the High Commission and advertisements in the media constituted an invitation for Tanzanian authors to submit English-language, original, thought-provoking manuscripts which engage and captivate youth. The competition is open for 6 months or so at which time a panel of judges made up of representatives of the publishing industry and education sector will convene to assess the manuscripts and select the three winners who will be awarded cash prizes.
Winning manuscripts will be edited and published by Tanzania publishers and then sold commercially, as well as distributed to CODE-supported schools and libraries throughout the country. It’s expected that these award-winning titles will soon become widely known and available in the country, and beyond, and that the Burt Award titles will contribute to the growing body of exceptional African literature.
As CODE’s Tanzanian Program Manager I have the pleasure to work with a team of dedicated and talented Tanzanians everyday. I’m often inspired by their ability to engage those around them in the importance of education. This week that’s been especially true as this new and exciting Book Award was announced.
- Christine Earnshaw, CODE Program Manager