Taking Pride in Publishing and Editing Text Books

While I know some forms of technology are new or not widely accessible in many parts of Kenya, or the continent of Africa, I do know the people with access to the technology are incredibly intelligent.  To that end, I know that my teachers and other professionals I have met in Kenya understand editing and even the fact that MS Word will check your work.  I know this because there is not a ‘Kings English’ version of MS and so words such as labor/labour, center/centre, etc. end up in the ‘editing’ malfesance which must be manually corrected.

In the past couple weeks I have been helping out various teachers to type up different pieces they need for class as I apparently type fast (so fast, that people stare…..and I don’t want them sellling tickets!) and it is much more efficient (it also helps distract me from some of the more frustrating things I am dealing with right now).  One of the books I have been typing pieces from is The River Between.  The novel and questions were put together by the English Department at Moi Girls HS in Eldoret, the community I teach in.   The novel story is a wonderful piece of Kenyan literature.  The questions are thoughtful and interesting.   My issue is none of that.

My issue is that some how Apex Book Publishers (typesetting done by Jael Murgor; Patricia) was in such a hurry to ‘publish’ or sell the book (ISBN 9966-7231-2-9) that they neglected to have some one proof the copy before mass printing.  There are many reasons this is frustrating to me and should be to any educator:

(1) In one sentence the word many is written as may.  The context is such that a reasonable person would be able to realize the word should be many, however, for learners where English is the translation of the book, this type of typo may not be caught or may in fact change the meaning.   Suffice it to say this is one of many typos which I have found and I have only typed up three passages for my English Dept.

(2) There is no excuse for any book publisher to have as many errors as I have seen in three passages unless they are unprofessional or unfamiliar with the normal flow of publishing.  Since many of the book publishers here are of European extraction (i.e. came with the colonizers), this is seen by me as an insult that Kenyan’s are some how not even important enough to have proof reading done of books to be used by Kenyan Public Schools. I won’t even go into my thoughts on racism for that would be a whole other tangent/blog.

(3) It is not right that Kenyan teachers be given inferior materials to teach with – their job is already difficult.  Not only did I find errors in this book, but in the Physics KCSE. Almost every text type book I have read here has errors above and beyond the small ones I have found in the U.S. published text books.

(4) Learners should not be made to use inferior text books and then be tested on something where these typos impact them.  Again, this hits on issues of racism which I will not even address at this time, suffice it to say learners are being punished because publishing companies simply can not do the job adequately over here.

My suggestion is that publishing houses in Kenya or on the continent of Africa simply ship out the documents to be typed and proofed to another country.  Have the work done, sent back via internet or memory stick and start acting competently.  It is difficult enough to improve education with good materials.  Shoddy materials, in this case published books, are demeaning to all who come in contact with them.  These shoddy materials speak volumes not only about the publishing houses, but about the level of professionalism with which the people who run said publishing houses conduct themself.  If this shoddy quality would not be acceptable for their own children who most likely go to some posh private school, it should not be acceptable for any learner.