From Longman To Learn Africa Was Challenging-Emeke Iwerebon

The Chairman, Learn Africa PLC, Chief Emeke Iwerebon, has said the company faced serious challenges when foreign partners divested from Longman Nigeria PLC and the company had to change its name to Learn Africa PLC.

He, however, added that the determination and focus to succeed, coupled with Nigerian authors who came up with books Learn Africa could lay claims to, save the situation.

He stated this during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the company in Ikeja, Lagos.

According to him, when the United Kingdom partners divested totally from Longman Nigeria some years ago, the Nigerian subsidiary had to rebrand after losing the rights to some books hitherto published by the parent company.

“This transition to Learn Africa came with its own challenges as new textbooks had to be developed, especially for Mathematics and English Language at the secondary school levels, JSS 1 to SSS 3, to replace the hugely successful New General Mathematics and English Project which are Pearson exclusives. Also, we no longer had the rights to market the hugely popular Longman dictionaries.

“These were the initial challenges Learn Africa faced as a company and we resolved then to confront the challenges squarely. We were able to quickly publish new titles and secure the rights to the dictionaries and rigorously promote them, and thankfully, today, these books, New Concept Mathematics, New Concept English, Learn Africa English Dictionary and many other titles are bestsellers in their product categories,” he said.

Iwerebon poured encomiums on Nigerian authors would rose to the occasion and filled the void created.

Speaking on the future of publishing in the country, he noted that adapting to modern technology was key.

“The advent of digital technology has necessitated and compelled transition  from traditional publishing to digital publishing with the end products being e-books and e-learning. Learn Africa is not lagging behind in this digital transformation. We have collaborated with the Federal Government and others to develop teacher training content powered by Learn Africa for the N-Teach space of the N-Power programme. We have also recently developed our own e-content for the use of modern readers and online learners,” he said

On whether hard copy books would fizzle out completely in the near future, Iwerebon opined that some factors might not allow that to happen so soon.

He added that apart from the cost of data, connectivity and other issues in rural areas even in advanced nations were still hindrances to 100 percent transition to digital books and learning.

He said as a forward looking company, Learn Africa was putting more focus and attention on digital publishing.

On piracy challenges faced by publishers, Iwerebon called on the government to help take the fight to the school level by sanctioning school owners who encourage patronage of pirated books.

The Chairman of the occasion, who is also the Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, described the diamond anniversary as a period for the company to self appraise.

” Incidentally, I am also an author in the stable of Learn Africa and I can say the company has come a long way. The network of friends and partners the company has is wide and growing. This is also a period to look ahead and strategise for opportunities and challenges. The staff of the company have been excellent in the discharge of their duties and must be duly appreciated,” he said.

The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, Prof. Junaid Ismail, said Learn Africa had made an indelible mark on the education space in the country and wished the company more fruitful years ahead.

The Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Hajia Halima Lawal, said Learn Africa occupied the driver’s seat in the education sector in the country.

She also gave kudos to it for its great role in teacher development.

A former Managing Director of the company, Mr J.A Olowoniyi paid glowing tributes to the late Chief Felix Iwerebon and others who were instrumental to the setting up of Longman Nigeria PLC in those days.

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