Closing Ceremony


Peter Schneck, Closing Speech


Honourable minister, ladies and gentlemen,

After five days of intense work we can look back on an impressive array of results, at the same time, we can look forward to implementing the ideas we have developed during our work.

Teachers must learn to listen to their children and respect their pre-knowledge. They should be able to give more importance to each child’s writing ability, and encourage the other children to read the texts of their classmates. This way the walls of the classroom could be transformed in a reading environment using the children’s own stories.

We have learned that Africa needs a functioning book-chain, one that leads from the writer and illustrator to the publisher, bookshops, libraries, schools and eventually to the reader.

In today’s world, there can be no cultural or economical development without literacy. And there can be no readers without books. Children’s books in African languages are often the single printed material an African child can access. Children’s literature books, understood by the child and its parents are the best way to introduce the child and its family to reading.

If we would compile an anthology of “The Greatest Errors of Mankind”, the idea that pre-colonial Africa had no tradition of writing would warrant a prominent place!

What is writing? – It is linking an abstract symbol to a meaning, and reading is to identify the meaning without direct or indirect verbal communication. Because mankind originated in Africa, I am convinced that the first writer in human history was an African. Such examples could be the scratching of an arrow into the sand telling following companions which way to go. When we look at cave-paintings, pre-historic stone-engravings, the symbolizing of meaning by sculpting or weaving patterns, Africa has a rich tradition of reading and writing: we have just forgotten! To be made aware of these roots will encourage people to keep the rich oral traditions alive and, at the same time, it can create a stimulating written cultural environment.

I wish to thank: the participants for coming and sharing their experiences with us, Editions Bakame for co-organizing and co-financing this workshop, and the UNESCO Fund for the Promotion of Culture for providing a grant to support the workshop. Further thanks must go to Mr. Hideo Yamada from Japan, who after supporting the Book Flood programme in Cape Town in connection with IBBY’s 29th Congress in 2004, has generously given support for the IBBY-Yamada Fund, which was especially created to provide funds to make projects such as this workshop possible.

I came here, together with all the guests from outside Africa, as a learner and I believe that we leave Rwanda enriched with knowledge and new experiences.

We leave Kigali not only with the promise of the ongoing development of a reading and writing culture, but also of developing collaboration within Africa.

Thank you. Goodbye. Murabeho.