My contact page continues to bring some important people in my path , the latest being Dr. Steven Paas, who since 1997 has been involved in Malawi, as a resident and as a friend at a distance. Dr. Paas used to teach at Zomba Theological College from 1998 to 2007. At present, he is based in the Netherlands where he and his wife are continuing to be active in various projects for Malawi. One of these projects is the Chewa/ Nyanja to English (CE) and from English to Chewa/ Nyanja (EC) Dictionary project.
Dr Paas points out that during his time in Malawi he experienced a crisis of communication which was caused by the difference between cultures and languages. He noted that there was a gap between the English, which is considered the official language, and Chichewa or Chinyanja which is the language for common use at home and at work by more than 90 percent of the population. This motivated him to start compiling two dictionaries, an English-Chichewa (EC) one and a Chichewa-English (CE) one. Donors helped him to publish and distribute tens of thousands of the books. Many people inside and outside Malawi have profited from this project. In January/ February of 2009 more than 8,000 copies of the fourth edition of the EC book were freely handed out, mainly to pupils and teachers of about 30 secondary schools in the Southern Region of Malawi. The books at least have contributed to (a) improving communication between speakers of Chewa and speakers of English, (b) facilitating learners of English and learners of Chichewa, (c) providing a tool for those who make translations from and into Chichewa.
In the meantime, these separate EC and CE books have been combined and replaced by one CE-EC volume, compressed to 730 pages in small letter size, containing more than 35,000 entries. Depending on funding, thousands of copies will be distributed to schools before the end of August. At the same time, Dr. Paas and a network of resource-persons are continuing the process of improvement, research, and the collection of vocabulary for later editions. There is a long term plan for the printing and distribution of very large quantities of the combined CE-EC Dictionary. The plan is expected to be realised in six phases during five or six years. For now, emphasis is put on the first phase of the plan, i.e. the production and spreading of the first edition of the CE-EC book, consisting of 15,000 copies. Apart from Form 3 and 4 pupils and teachers, who will receive freely about 80 percent of the books, and at least 50 employees of the Printing House (AG Press Limbe), who will be assured of their job security, other target groups include:
- The publisher of the dictionaries (Kachere and its Staff in Zomba) who will buy probably ten percent of the books. They will be able to make a profit by selling them to bookshops and individuals.
- Chewa and English speaking members of the general public in large areas of Central Africa, who will use the book and feel strengthened in their ability to communicate with people of the other language.
- NGOs inside and outside Malawi who may be interested in buying these books for their staff.
This project is a good for Malawi and Chewa/Nyanja speaking countries but its success mainly depends on external funding. Therefore it is necessary for firms, states, banks, NGOs, and governmental organizations to support the project. Also expatriates, especially those foreign institutions that have a relationship with Malawi and neighboring countries or in any way are interested in education in Central and Southern Africa, can help the project by spreading this message. They can also help financially in the following two ways:
- By buying copies for the Chewa/ Nyanja speakers, and the expatriates who work in your organization or in your partner organizations in Malawi and neighboring countries. For this special purpose the CE-EC Dictionaries are offered to those organizations at cost price (i.e. in Malawi: approximately MK 1,200 per copy).
- By providing direct financial support. For the short-term plan about €60,000 has to be raised (i.e. in Malawi: about MK 13 million). Up till now donors have donated about one third of the amount.
Potential donors may feel encouraged by the Dutch Consul in Malawi, Mrs Margriet Sacranie, who, together with many others, has given moral support to the project, apart from her practical assistance in transporting and distributing the books to the selected schools. Potential donors who wish to get in touch with Dr. Steven Paas for further details should kindly contact me and I will relay the messages to him.
The general public is also encouraged to spread this message. Fellow bloggers are encouraged to copy the contents of this post and publish them on their own blogs.