Writing and reading are intertwined skills that are crucial to the growth and development of any society and particularly nations. Namibia is one of the youngest nations on the continent. This backing of history is an indication that reading and writing at an advanced level is still lacking. Not long ago, during apartheid, many Namibians were trained to know basic to communicate with their colonial masters, know basics to carry out jobs in various respective fields. In-depth studies and research by black individuals who could have been scholars were discouraged so as constructive and critical thinking.
Given this background, it may be convincing to many of us why? (1) We have less international renowned authors. (2) It might be one of the reasons why our research institutions are not living to their full mandates. (3) Innovation in terms of industrialisation is too slow to take place. The three mentioned factors and others which are not mentioned in this article are crucial and are at the heart of growth and development of our country. Like any enterprise, writing requires other elements which are significant to sustainability. The following are entrepreneurial aspects of writing; distribution, marketing and promotion of this intellectual property.
In the recent past, we have witnessed an exodus of Namibian writers which is predominantly by the youngsters. We can commend them for being so bold and brave to expose their research skills to that level. However, it is important to also note their struggle and pain as they approach shops to partner and are rejected in the first and many other attempts, on a claim that international bookstores have laws that do not allow them to sell local books. For instance, for one to have a book to be sold in an international book retailer shop must have registered it through South Africa and not locally. It may be okay but how many people are privileged to know all that which happens in South Africa. It as well triggers one to think of why can’t the information or procedures be decentralised just like the expansion of the shops. For the few that may sell, they take away the big share of the sales and leave the author with less funds for the sustainability of the next production of books and even motivate him/her to continue to write. It is very discouraging and can be said to have undermined our progress in the three main areas earlier mentioned. This does not only affect authors but readers too. They walk in bookstores excited and expecting to see their local books displayed just to be woken up from daydreams upon enquiries with the unwelcomed message of the bookstores.
I am worried for this generation and disgruntled by treatments such as this. This is not in the light of moneymaking as the economic heavyweight may argue but in the light of our intellectual stamina and the improvement in readership so as to research and development. One of the struggles of the postgraduate candidates is research. This is because reading culture is not promoted enough in the land of the brave. I might have mentioned that but can only imagine what may be happening in marketing departments, as adequate information is needed to make innovative decisions fitting our Namibian context. I am worried for our scholars if reading and I mean critical and purpose reading takes place or it ends upon graduation with a PhD in their respective areas? I am left to question if corporate, church leaders and politicians are well exposed to their own day-to-day information to help them make sound decisions. All these questions are posed to support my argument that, “A READING NATION IS A WISE NATION.”
We as people need to be concerned and I suggest the few things below not that they are perfect but may help: (1) People who are in the position for decision making must study the industry and assist those who are struggling by creating a favourable environment for writing. Just like Vygosky (1934) stated that, “the outside community has to appreciate and motivate the person for him or her to continue without ceasing.” (2) The bookstores to regulate the laws which must enable an easy partnership with the local authors. (3) Namibia as a country to promote and encourage authorship and readership across sectors, for the purpose of empowerment of people. (4) Identification of change champions who may be writing and reading ambassadors.
In conclusion, the burden of an author is to be constructive, figure out how to best make ends meet. It is also the responsibility of the author to gain confidence that enables him/ her to be lifted out of shackles of self-doubt, hence deploying his/ her knowledge to people. Namibia has many great authors whose work may not reach people and it is our responsibility to identify these people and their work to be exposed to the public. Even when we have a desire to want to consume the knowledge of internationally renowned authors, we should bear in mind that those writing here write our own stories. There is a saying that says, “Until the lion learns how to write every story will glorify the hunter.” Equally, until we learn to read and write, all great ideas will be initiated elsewhere. Covid-19 just reminded us that we need to write our stories and share them at our own convenience. How great would it be if children and their parents would read Namibian stories which would speak to their conditions at the comfort of their homes? It would help us to easily come up with learning materials that would bring ease to the ministry of education, libraries, and churches to engage in constructive research and teachings, and the communities in particular. There would be more collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to educate people. Many types of research both theoretical and practical could be conducted as the norm is already established.