As independence from British colonial rule swept across East Africa in the early 1960s and freedom was won in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, parents and teachers worried about what their children were reading.
Most children’s books on the market were dominated by European writers like Enid Blyton. One of Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo’s most stringent criticisms of colonialism was the explosive effect of this “cultural bomb” in the classroom, as missionaries taught African students western cultures and foreign histories. This, according to Kenyan publisher Henry Chakava, was producing
a new breed of black Europeans, who began to despise their own skin and background.
Publishers and African writers were quick to realise the gap in the market for literature that was suitable for a new generation growing up in independence. From the mid-1960s onwards, publishing houses began a concerted effort to produce such literature. What’s particularly noteworthy is that most of these authors of children’s books in this period were women.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.