Does Zambia Have a Reading Culture?
Filed Under: Self Development
Date Created:30 Sep 2014
Last Modified:30 Sep 2014
Number of Views: 815
We complain about the bad reading culture in Zambia, but I
think in our complaints we neglect the underlying causes of this culture. We
tend to forget where we come from and who we are.
When you look at our history, it has little of reading.
Reading was brought by the white people and came with the white man’s knowledge
and propaganda. Initially, we did not need to read or study to make a living.
We hunted. We gathered. We planted. We survived.
Reading was an alien activity: a new thing which came with
the so-called civilization. And what is worse, we were made to read in a
foreign language—making it an even a more alien activity.
Reading came with a new civilization; a civilization which
runs on a complex business ecosystem, unlike anything that we ever did know.
For us, life was simple: if you needed food, you simply needed to go look for
it, or you grew it. Survival depended on working hard in the field or in the
bush. What we read was the signs of nature, telling us when and how we should act. We
studied the wind, the sky and the movements of the sun. Nature had all we
We married. We had children—family. As long as we put food
on the table, we were content and happy—and that is all that really mattered.
But now we were told we need to imbibe knowledge from paper.
The paper, we were taught, contained all the knowledge in the world that could
bring us riches untold.
So as you can see, reading was foreign. We never really had a
reading culture. Our culture was based on survival. We were hunters. We were
food gathers. That’s what worked for us. Reading, pouring through books and
memorizing facts seemed like a lazy man’s
way—a white man’s way. That is why it was easy for the while man to use
us to achieve his end by forcing us into labour. He used our strength against
Centuries later, we are in a new era where information is
widespread. Through the phenomenal of globalization, the world has become one
and woven into a complex ecosystem of inter-dependency; where the activities
of one can and do affect the other. Survival
has become more complex than before and involves studying this complex system
of things, with its diverse rules and regulations; and these rules are too
broad and big and complex to be passed on by word of mouth only. Survival is
depended more on knowledge than on raw strength and stamina; and keeping up
with the Joneses. It is about outwitting each other. It, more or less, is about
The wealth and prosperity of entire nations depends on the
knowledge and literacy of its citizens. It depends on how well they can
integrate into this system and how well they can manipulate it to their own
But despite all this, our old culture of simply surviving
lingers on. And we have somewhat managed
to maintain it in this complex world; and the things that mattered to us then
still matter to us now. We marry; we have children and we want to put food on
the table. If we can do that, we are
happy and content. And how do we do that? By labouring. By working hard like we
have always done. We never needed to read to do that. It was an alien concept.
And never really integrated so well into our local tongues. So if we have to read, we read because it
helps us to achieve this end. And once
we achieve this end, do we need to read any further?
We are labourers. We work hard for our food and
shelter. And if we have to read, it’s
only because it helps us achieve this end. Once achieved, we see no further
need for reading. And most of the time, we are too tired and spent to read.
This is why our reading culture is so bad—because we never
really ever had one.
But we are awakening to the fact that reading enlightens us.
We read, not to survive, but to learn; to learn about other worlds and
civilizations. We read to for enjoyment. We read to connect with other
minds. We read to build ourselves. We
read to become better human beings. We read because we are not just concerned
about ourselves; but because we desire to better our community and ultimately,
the world. We read so that we know our true potential and what we can
ultimately become. We read because we want to be a little more than ordinary.
So why is the reading culture in Zambia so bad? I think you
now know. Now, armed with that knowledge, we can change it. We can become a
reading nation. We just need to change our mindset. And we need to invest
effort into naturalizing reading by adopting it into our local dialects.
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