Asare Konadu Yamoah — President of the Ghana Book Publishers Association, addressing the press
Asare Konadu Yamoah — President of the Ghana Book Publishers Association, addressing the press
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Book publishers fume over NaCCA’s assessment role

The Ghana Book Publishers Association (GPA) has demanded that the book assessment and approval role granted the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) be withdrawn.

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It said Parliament must work with industry to find a place to anchor the assessment process because publishers could not trust it to be an independent and transparent regulator.
"NaCCA should focus on its primary role of developing curriculum for the country and monitor its compliance”.

"We cannot work with the organisation that has openly declared its intention to support a particular publisher," the President of the GPA, Asare Konadu Yamoah, said at a press conference in Accra yesterday.

The GPA president said some time ago, NaCCA wrote to the association informing it of the suspension of assessment, and that it would announce when it resumed. He alleged that the NaCCA had gone ahead to assess a particular publisher’s work and had written to schools that are selling the books on behalf of the publisher.

“Patiently, we waited. However, the association intercepted a circular emanating from the Office of the Director-General directing private schools to send their orders of textbooks printed by Appointed Time Printers based on the Common Core programme to the NaCCA,” he said.

That, Mr Yamoah said, was beyond the work of a regulator and that the NaCCA had written on its letterhead that all private schools should send orders for those particular books to it.

“NaCCA cannot do that, it means that you have compromised your position because you told us that you are suspending assessment, meanwhile you are assessing somebody’s books, given approval, the publisher has printed and the regulator itself is taking the marketing role. How can you trust this entity,” he asked.

Mr Yamoah alleged that since 2018 when the NaCCA decided to change the country's curriculum, publishers had been subjected to humiliating experiences and that the way the organisation handled the transition had made publishers lose huge investments.

That notwithstanding, he said, members supported the transition and successfully developed manuscripts for the first phase of the curriculum changes which were currently being used in schools.

“This was a fundamental error in administration, particularly from a regulator of an industry. The Education Act of 2020 that established the NaCCA did not allocate a marketing responsibility to it. It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a regulator to intervene in the textbook market other than assessment and approval of the textbooks,” Mr Yamoah said.

The association found such an action very worrying and that the organisation’s letter to NaCCA to promptly withdraw the circular was complied with, the GPA president added.

“What has conditioned this reference is a whole set of textbooks under the Common Core programme that the Ministry of Education has procured,” the GPA president said, adding that “these are supposedly the same textbooks that NaCCA had sought to promote and market to the private schools”.

Mr Yamoah said while publishers waited on NaCCA to give the green light for its members to submit their manuscripts for assessment, some manuscripts were being assessed and approved to the extent that they had been ready for the market and the regulator would go further to solicit market for them.

The primary responsibility of every regulator, he stressed, was to guarantee to the regulated a transparent, independent, fair and secure service. “What is more worrying is the revelation that the Ministry of Education has gone ahead to procure these textbooks developed under the Common Core curriculum for schools and currently the books are sitting in the warehouses of the GES in the districts.

As if that is not enough blow to publishers, the Ministry of Education has also started the development and publication of textbooks,” he said. Meanwhile, Mr Yamoah said the ministry had been unable to pay for textbooks ordered from publishers under the standard-based curriculum, amounting to about GH¢320 million, which was even inadequate to satisfy its textbook objective of one child per textbook and had not been able to supply to schools the complete set of required textbooks for all the subjects.

Motivation

The book publishers questioned the motivation of the ministry to proceed to commission a publisher to develop textbooks for the common core programme when books it ordered on credit over two years ago had not been paid for.

Mr Yamoah contended that the ministry procured textbooks from publishers at 100 per cent credit and asked why such a generous offer would potentially deter the Ministry of Education from approaching those same publishers if it wanted the common core textbooks on credit.

Again, he wondered why the ministry was trying to impose one standard textbook on the country with that procurement and that the use of one textbook for all schools and students in the country would have a diminishing effect on the students.

“We are asking whether it is legal, fair and developmentally oriented for the Ministry of Education to impose a monopoly in the textbook supply chain?” he asked. Mr Yamoah said the association wanted to know why the Ministry of Education and its agencies tried to directly involve themselves in the textbook market other than the development and implementation of policies and legislation that guided the growth of the book industry. 

Policy

The 2002 Textbook Development and Distribution Policy, which was to act as a blueprint for the development of the book industry, clearly acknowledges that it is only the private sector under a liberalised system that can promote the industry.

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“With no competition, the country becomes highly exposed to manipulation through price adjustments and inefficiency”. “Sadly, this condition is being imposed on us and it could disrupt the publishing ecosystem in the country,” Mr Yamoah stated.

The association urged the Ministry of Education to disclose its intentions and if it was about creating a monopoly, it should be reversed forthwith. “It is uneconomical, unnecessary and diversionary. None will be a winner,” the president of GPA said. 

Increase

The GPA also served notice that members would increase the prices of textbooks between 30 and 40 per cent, effective June, this year, to save the industry from collapse. That followed what the association said was a 27 per cent Value Added Tax the publishers suffered and the economic conditions which were affecting its operations.

"If we are all thinking about Ghana, then dialogue and consultations will have to be the anchor of government's relationship with businesses. "Until such conversation is initiated, we have no options but to increase the prices of books,” Mr Yamoah stated.

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