Mother tongue books in short supply – author

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-A local author has called on the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to work with publishers and authors so that they produce books in mother tongue for pre-primary and upper primary schools.

Helvi Itenge-Wheeler, an author of children’s books, said in an interview with New Era that despite having mother tongue instruction in some schools at primary school level “there are not enough books in mother tongue”.

“I really don’t know what to think. How could you teach if there are not enough books especially in mother tongue? That’s really a concern for me. As a mother, when my children were young, I had to make a choice whether or not to encourage my children to read,” said Itenge-Wheeler.

Iitenge-Wheeler, who studied and lived in the United States of America, said although there were no books in Oshiwambo in that country she came up with her own projects to inculcate a reading culture for her children even in Oshiwambo.

That is how she discovered a niche market for writing and publishing children’s stories, particularly in Oshiwambo.

She said the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture bought some of her books to shelve them in various libraries.

She stressed that children need to develop a reading habit while young so that they do not struggle academically later in life.

“You end up with students who plagiarize other people’s work at university because they are not readers. Their vocabulary is not rich and they are not critical thinkers because they don’t read,” Itenge-Wheeler added.

But mother tongue as a medium of instruction at lower primary level has been in the school system since even before independence, noted Johanna Absalom, the chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.

“The only reason why there are not enough books in some African languages is because there are not enough authors, or the publishers do not develop books in that language because the number of learners is small and there is therefore no economical viability for them,” explained Absalom.

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