African Publishing Company
Nelson Mandela once said; “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In 2014, I walked into a library and noticed a textbook I had purchased about a year ago. This textbook had more than doubled in price. I was shocked. Whilst soliciting funds to purchase textbooks or obtaining donations could have eased this problem, these solutions are not innovative and do not deal with the root cause of the problem. Many students receive donations of textbooks but some textbooks are either damaged or stolen, soon needing replacements. The African Publishing Company is non-profit which solicits the assistance of teachers to publish low-cost books for students whilst raising awareness of this problem of expensive textbooks. The innovative idea which allows the initiative to be able to produce low-cost books is this; a book is published and distributed to a school. The school then takes it upon itself to make photocopies of the book and distribute to its students.
1. Our first objective is to reach out to as many students as possible with our mathematics textbook.
2. Our second objective is to raise awareness of the problem that exists of lack of textbooks for students. Many individuals who are much more financially privileged are not fully aware that many Malawian students face challenges in receiving a decent education due to this problem of unaffordable prices of textbooks.
3. Our third objective was to reach out to several schools in Malawi and to set up partnerships with these schools in order for them to support the campaign and also distribute our low-cost textbooks.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
The first and third objective which was to reach out to as many schools and students as possible was achieved through a partnership set up with one of Malawi’s well established secondary school, Mount Sinai International School (MSIS). I introduced the idea of producing low-cost textbooks and raising awareness of the problems faced by many Malawian students in achieving a decent education due to lack of textbooks. MSIS eagerly agreed to support this cause. It assisted the campaign by distributing the low-cost mathematics. Another way in which another objective of ours, the second one on raising awareness on textbook problems, was achieved through assistance by the media and word-of-mouth. I recently won the Queen’s Young Leader Award, an award presented to the youth by Queen Elizabeth II, as a result of my many leadership accomplishments in educational development. I was able to use this award as a way to raise awareness of the campaign through the attention I received from the media.
I managed to set up partnerships with some world-class teachers. One example is a teacher from the UK known as Stuart Sidders who has over 41 years of experience in teaching math. He runs a website known as ExamSolutions which provides over 3,500 math videos to students from across the world. His videos have been viewed over 62 million times. Such teachers ensure that the low-cost textbooks are of high quality. Furthermore, this initiatives uses low-cost materials in order to publish our books. To produce a textbook, it costs roughly $USD4. This allows hundreds of students in Malawi to be able to access these textbook as we are able to supply several schools due to these low costs.
The campaign has been successful beyond the intended targets even though there were a few failures along the way. Firstly, this campaign has managed to raise awareness on the need to produce low-cost textbooks for students. We managed to set up partnerships with 5 schools in Malawi, increasing our impact. Although this campaign only began late in 2015, more than 100 students have benefited. We managed to receive several mentions in Malawian radio stations. As an individual, I managed to raise awareness about this problem at a school I attend known as the African Leadership Academy (ALA). ALA is a two-year boarding school which aims at developing the next generation of African leaders. 100 students are selected from across Africa every year. I was able to raise awareness of the problems of expensive textbooks to my peers at ALA by sharing my journey with them about this campaign. By doing so, these young leaders will be able to set up their own campaigns in their countries.
I was 17 years old, in 2015, at the time when I began to work on this initiative of producing low-cost textbooks and raising awareness about the problem of lack of textbooks faced by many students. As an individual, this is the biggest challenge I faced. The problem with being a 17 year old is that many people did not take me seriously. There are several individuals who believe that someone at such a young age is merely a ‘child’ and cannot evoke any transformative change. I find this lack of faith in young people, such as myself, to be appalling as it is vital that we invest in the youth as they can be developed into future transformative leaders. As a result, I have set it upon myself to be an agent of change in my country who will fight for the development of the youth by raising awareness and accomplishing what they see is as impossible for a ‘child’.
This campaign has been very influential in shaping my perspectives as an individual. I have learnt several things. Firstly, whilst working on this campaign, I was able to learn much more about the state of education in my country and in Africa. Our education systems need to serious repairs. It is not only an issue of resources or infrastructure. With Africa having the youngest population of people aged between 15 and 24, which is also set to expand, it is vital that we improve our education systems. My biggest takeaway from this campaign, however, is in regards to the lack of faith and support for our youth. As stated earlier, I encountered several individuals who were unwilling to assist me because I was a ’17-year-old child.’ This experience has made me aware of how many individuals in society look down upon the youth and do not see them as being capable of accomplishing anything transformative. I am now set to change this.