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Suitable Literature (Distribution)

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 6 August 1947

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what measures he proposes to take, following the introduction of the technique of mass education in Africa, to provide religious and other suitable literature to the new literates in adequate quantities; and what measures are contemplated to safeguard the new literates, as well as Africans generally, from the influence of immoral and seditious journals and news-sheets.

As the answer is long and factual, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply

Arrangements to secure adequate supplies of suitable literature for Africans are well in train, and the subject has the continuous attention of the Mass Education Sub-Committee of my Advisory Committee on Education. Under the Nigerian Development Plan a public corporation called the Gaskiya Corporation has been established in Northern Nigeria with the objects, among other things, of increasing the supply of general vernacular literature for post-school reading, particularly in connection with the spread of mass literacy, and of establishing a vernacular newspaper for the Northern Province. The Corporation is producing the paper "Gaskiya," the circulation of which is 22,000 fortnightly. In Sierra Leone for the past three years mission authorities, with assistance from public funds, have been carrying on a campaign for the extension of literacy within one of the language areas of the Protectorate, and this scheme provides for the printing and publication of suitable literature. The British Council has established libraries in West Africa and attention is being given to their further development.

As regards East and Central Africa, a scheme has just been received from the East African Governments recommending the setting up of a Literature Bureau, financed from colonial development and welfare funds, with headquarters in Nairobi, for the purpose of stimulating the production of books and other publications for Africans. A literature adviser for Africans in East Africa has already been appointed and has begun to work out plans for the Bureau. The Northern Rhodesia Development Plan provides for the establishment of a Publications Bureau and the scheme is being put in hand immediately. Similar measures are proposed for Nyasaland, and the establishment of a Joint Publications Bureau for the two Territories is under consideration. Northern Rhodesia already has a Government published African newspaper, "Mutende." This paper was first published in 1935 and has been published weekly for several years now.

Much attention is being devoted at the present time to the problem of encouraging the improvement of the standard of the newspapers produced by the colonial peoples themselves. An experimental scholarship scheme, under which training will be given to three colonial journalists, has been provided under British Council auspices. Consultation with organisations representing both proprietors of newspapers and journalists in this country show that there is sympathy with the ends in view, and it is hoped that further facilities will be arranged. It is also hoped to be able to arrange for the visits to this country from time to time of parties of colonial journalists. Colonial public relations officers give what assistance they can to newspaper editors and provide not only "hand-outs" about Government activities, but also, in certain instances, photographic and block-making facilities. In addition there is supplied from London, through the Public Relations Office, services of news commentaries, feature articles, photographs and blocks. The control of seditious and other literature is governed by laws which are much the same as those in the United Kingdom. The aim is to avoid restrictive controls and to do all that is possible by positive action to develop better quality alternatives.