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Writers must prepare for Kenya’s new curriculum

ARTS & CULTURE
By Lucas Wafula | March 26th 2016

NAIROBI: Any editor will tell you that the number of unsolicited manuscripts received in publishing houses is enormous. Kenyans are doing a lot of writing out there. In fact, nowadays, most emails from writers will have a note that goes, ‘I will let you publish my other work if you publish this one.’

Personally, I never take such writers seriously, as a writer should aspire to have a manuscript accepted first – without conditions – especially if you are sending in an unsolicited manuscript. With the anticipated curriculum change and knowledge that many writers would like to take part in creating the requisite content, I would suggest that our writers try and deliver solicited manuscripts.

A solicited manuscript is one presented to a publisher by a ‘known’ author. He or she would have been asked to write. On the other hand, an unsolicited manuscript is one that gets to a publisher through speculation. In this case, an author writes and simply sends it to the publisher, hoping the publisher will find it useful hence, publish it. Presently, some publishers still accept unsolicited manuscripts. However, many would rather commission a writer to do the work. Even with this arrangement, ‘unknown’ writers can still be published.

Recently, I engaged a young man as a proof reader and from his report, which was well done, I asked him if he would be interested in writing as I had seen that potential in him. He answered in the affirmative and now he has helped us developed material together that we will soon publish. You might be asking, how can the publisher get to know about my writing? Well, publishers are currently preparing for the change of curriculum and one of the things they are doing is looking for good writers. So, walk into those offices and talk to the editors about this. But, not so fast. Ask yourself if you are ready and up to the task.

One way of finding out if you can do this work or not is by talking to your fellow writers – the experienced ones.

Competence-based

The new curriculum will be competence-based. As we speak, there are authors who have interacted with this type of curricular already, especially those who have written for Rwandan schools.

These experienced writers will open the world of the competence-based curriculum to you – it is different from the knowledge-based curriculum that we have had all this time.

Further, today’s writer must think outside the box as the new curriculum will go beyond the traditional school subjects. Writers with knowledge of technical subjects will be required as the Ministry of Education, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development is keen to tap into the learners’ talents and abilities. This is where subjects such as drama – which would include script writing – come in. I must caution someone here, though. You might be a good scriptwriter but that does not mean you can write texts that can help students learn. You need training in writing for learners in order to develop material that can be useful in schools and colleges. To do this, I would suggest you write samples and send them to experienced writers or editors. Seek their advice.
Another thing is that the new curriculum is coming along with its ‘new’ twin – digital material for schools. As you prepare to write, you should ask yourself how well your work fits in with the digital content. In other words, can it be converted easily into the digital format and still be useful? This will apply mostly to learning materials for the lower primary level, which comprise illustrations that supplement the text.

Writing is essential to the development of any society – none has developed with people who aren’t well read. As a writer, you should consider yourself lucky to be part of this development. More importantly, you should think of ways of making the required content available and accessible to the reader.

Have you ever wondered why some writers are more popular than others? One reason for this is accessibility – they know their audience so well that they tailor their writing just for their readers in terms of language difficulty and creating interest in the same material through humour and other stylistics. As you look forward to the new curriculum, prepare to be that writer that will add value to the lives of your readers.

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