Whereas the oral culture of sharing knowledge is being replaced by reading, the latter appears to finish at the classroom level because the school curriculum is designed to cater only for passing examinations and not for sharing general knowledge. Hardly any general knowledge, except the Bible, is published in local languages.
The majority of the population leaves primary school with too poor knowledge in English to read and understand general books published in English. Most of these books are imported from Europe. The class of population without English knowledge is destined to read nothing throughout their life at the peril of our cultural development. We are ambitiously engaged in building skyscrapers of ignorance at a time, culturally, we are supposed to compete with industrially developed countries enjoying powerful reading cultures. Anyone can guess rightly who the winner is in that competition. We are in the process of building national poverty of knowledge for the next level of intellectual colonialism from Europe.
To progress, we must develop a powerful reading culture. But this can only be achieved and survive where there is a dynamic publishing industry in the languages of the people and where reading materials are not a luxury only affordable by the rich.
In Kenya, we are busy talking about building a government of devolution which, unfortunately, is not addressing this pertinent issue. Just to give an illustration of how big this problem is; for instance, I come from a community of nearly four million people which is close to the population of Israel, and more than the population of Libya; but where there is no meaningful general library! This is a misfortune shared by other communities in the nation in the so-called independent nation!
Today, Kenya has an excellent infrastructure that can establish a powerful publishing industry to publish knowledge for local consumption and export to feed the continent. A dynamic publishing industry will put in place a foundation for developing a powerful reading culture, create jobs and earn
foreign currency. The small publishing industry that exists today is busy publishing school books purely for commercial purposes, with no intention of engaging in long-term publishing that caters for the cultural development of our future generations.
I recommend setting up of a Commission to critically look into this grave cultural omission. The Commission should do so by gathering from the ground what it takes to develop an intellectually balanced nation through a powerful reading culture. The Commission should recommend how to create a dynamic publishing industry.