CORA Holds Conference On Bring Back the Book Initiative
As a follow-up to the ‘Bring Back The Book’ initiative of the administration of President Jonathan, the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, has resolved to stage a one-day conference of stakeholders in the Book industry and the creative and educational communities to fashion out an implementable document that could guide the President and his team in the quest to encourage reading culture and as well place importance on the Book as a source of knowledge acquisition and manpower development, according to Deji Toye, CORA’s Project Director and coordinator of the Conference.
The conference holds on January 17 in Lagos and is expected to attract a fairly large congregation of stakeholders in the relevant Indus tries, including from governmental agencies, said CORA’s programme team.
The theme of the one-day conference is When the President Wants to Bring Back the Book: So What’s To Be Done Now? And it is billed for the Banquet Hall, Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos; 9am – 6pm.
The ‘Bring Back the Book’ campaign had been launched on December 20 with the President joining the Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka in a reading session for over 400 students drawn from as many as 100 schools around Lagos. At the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. The programme also witnessed the formal presentation of the book President Goodluck Jonathan: My Friends and I, Conversations on Policy and Governance via Facebook, during which about five top Nigerian hip-hop musicians performed to a crowd of about 5000 people at the new Expo Hall of Eko Hotel.
According to CORA , the January 17 conference is a desired follow-up to ensure that the dream behind the project is kept alive even as the country gradually slips into the mood of electioneering “when we tend to forget every other critical aspects of our national life”.
The conference, states CORA, aims to “Gain the insight of stakeholders in the book industry on the current practical challenges of conceptualisation, production, distribution and consumption of books in Nigeria and its impact on the reading culture; and;
i. Obtain suggestions on what steps may be taken to address the said challenges with a view to reversing the waning reading culture, such steps including –
· any cultural/economic policies
· legal/regulatory frameworks
· market/supply-side innovations; and
· civil society initiatives.
Deliberations and suggestions at the conference will be presented to the ‘Bring Back the Book’ coordinators in the Presidency. It should also provide a reference point for a pan-industry advocacy for the revival of the reading culture and the revitalisation of the book industry“.
“Participants are to be to be drawn from the entire value chain of the book industry including the following: Publishers, booksellers and book dealers, authors, printers, libraries/librarians, book and literary event organisers/promoters (book clubs, literary festivals etc), educationists, renowned corporate promoters of book and literary initiatives, book and education-focused MDAs and Nigerian Academy of Letters”, stated CORA.
The culture advocate organisation, which prides itself as ‘Culture Landscapists’, stated: “This event will be regarded as significant in at least the following three respects:
To our knowledge, it is the first time in the last few decades that a Nigerian President has given a public, uncontroverted support to the campaign to return the book and the cultivation of its reading to a pride of place. This is significant in Nigeria where the success of any initiative often depends on a perception of interestedness or, better still, championship at the highest levels of government.
Equally significant is that a sitting President has now drawn a link between book reading and literacy and even onward to national economic development. Trite as that connection might appear, we are not aware that recent economic recovery programmes and various visioning projects have made book reading as central to human capacity development (which has itself been often touted as core to the achievement of economic prosperity) as we see encapsulated in the above-quoted speech of the President delivered at the campaign event.
Even more significantly, the strategy of taking the campaign ‘to town’ by the President will be recorded as a first, in which a matter of such communal significance will be canvassed on the streets before being thrown at policy bureaucrats. Indeed, Mr. President was reported as having dubbed the campaign a “citizens’ framework to bring back the book.”
“In the last twenty years, the CORA Art & Cultural Foundation (otherwise ‘Committee for Relevant Art’ or ‘CORA’) has sustained the campaign to place the book in the front burners of national debate and literacy at the heart of national development agenda. Indeed, we have always maintained our key annual event, the Lagos Book & Art Festival as a testament to our commitment that “the only way to translate the ‘teeming population’ of Nigeria into true human capital is to develop their minds” (http://coraartfoundation.org/index.php/about-cora). Mr. President’s speech at the ‘Bring Back the Book’ campaign launch shows how much consensus has now grown around this idea.
“While CORA realises the value of the media event of 20 December, 2010 in demonstrating the full faith and weight of the President in the campaign, we take the view that the real task of building the critical citizens’ framework for its sustenance has just begun. Based on our experience in organising intellectual events around book and culture in the last twenty years, the industry has faced a lot of challenges which militate against the return to the era of robust book production, acquisition and reading culture. Some of the challenges arise from the following factors:
Standard of education and its impact on the quality of content and creative expression emerging from the Nigerian local literary community in the last few years
Quality of technical expertise available to the industry following the exit of the multinational publishing companies and its impact on the technical quality of outputs in the Nigerian industry in the last few years (CORA has held a series of book editor’s clinics as a modest attempt to address this challenge).
The discouraging economics of book production and distribution in Nigeria and the gradual erosion of local book printing and production in preference for Asia
Issues of curriculum/syllabus development and quality of reading lists in Nigerian educational institutions; and
The environment for the support of civil society efforts at promoting book and reading culture in Nigeria.
CORA states that the conference will follow the popular parliamentary style now associated with CORA-organised deliberations, although Position Papers will be presented by key stakeholder groups drawn from the following four major sectors of the industry:
· Business: Publishers, book sellers/dealers/distributors/printers
· Creative: Authors
· Educational: Librarians, teachers, school proprietors, NUC, NAL
- Government (MDAs);
- NGOs/CSOs (book clubs, literary festivals, poetry salons, book fairs etc);
- Corporate donors (companies with bias for literary CSR commitments).
There will be interventions from other industry participants and from the general house.
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