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McCallum: Our aim is to improve quality of education


 Colleen McCallum

Colleen McCallum

Managing Director, Cambridge University Press, Africa Operation, Colleen McCallum, in this chat with GBENGA SALAU, speak on why her organisation is entering Nigerian market, with a launch on May 4.

Why are you coming to Nigeria?
WE have always been in Nigeria; we have been in the up market product school sector in Nigeria with our Cambridge International Exam products. That has been selling here for many years and we have been successful in that. But we looked into the market and we thought why only the top echelon should be exposed to our products. They are very expensive and elitist. So what we thought we are going to do is go lower and bring in affordable and accessible Cambridge books that are available for everybody at a good price, same product and good quality.

We have been working on this for two years and we decided to come in with books from primary one to senior secondary. And that is why it took two years to develop the books and they are English, mathematics and science books. Reason we chose those subjects are because they are the main subjects and the ones people focus on for result. And our main aim is to help schools improve in result. Everyone aspires to get good result in school, a successful pass rate and be able to go to a good university and get a good job. That is our aim, to uplift the quality of education in Nigerian schools.

However, Nigeria is a difficult market; there are a lot of publishers here, good ones. We sat back and felt we should sell our Cambridge international product first and see how it goes. And once we start getting successful with our Cambridge international products then we can introduce other products.

Do you have what it takes to operate in this terrain?
We have been working in Africa for more than 20 years, so we understand the market and we use African authors and curriculum specialists here. We have been working closely with curriculum specialists here, including authors and reviewers. So, our materials are a combination of what we know about book making technology, but linked with local conditions and people that know exactly what is happening here. Of course, it is curriculum complaint, there were changes in the curriculum this year and immediately we have to incorporate them into our books. So we have the most up to date books in the market.

Are you setting up a printing press in Nigeria?
We are setting up an office with a country manager. We are not printing in Nigeria right now for the first books, it is a lot of books, a million copies. No printer in Nigeria could handle that volume. We are printing in India, shipping down. If the books are selling fast, we could identify a printer in Lagos that we could use in doing the next printing.

Have you got approval for the books?
We are only going to be marketing to independent private schools for now, where you do not need approvals. We are going to start submitting our books to the government schools as we go along. We are focusing on primary and secondary schools, not tertiary schools.

How do you hope to tackle the threat of piracy?
We are very aware of pirates’ activities and what I have been told by the local people is that piracy comes in when you do not have enough stocks. So we are going to ensure that we have enough stocks for the market. We are going to work very closely with distributors also.

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