Who initiated the Burt Award for African Literature?

The Burt Award for African Literature is sponsored by CODE and made possible by the generous contributions of Canadian philanthropist Mr. William Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation. In November 2007, Mr. Burt joined a 10-day CODE-led tour to Africa. On the tour Mr. Burt was moved by the nation’s passion for education, but frustrated by the lack of quality, engaging books for youth – books that would carry children from primary to secondary school and help them develop a love of learning for life.  When Mr. Burt returned to Canada, he proposed to fund CODE’s development of an African Literature Award in countries where CODE supports literacy programs. 

What are the objectives of the Award?

There are a number of objectives for the Award, all of which support CODE’s goals to foster literacy, quality reading materials and the love of reading. Specific objectives include:

  • To recognize excellence in young adult fiction
  • To support and motivate the development of supplementary reading materials for a critical stage of learning – the transition period between mother tongue and English medium instruction.
  • To strengthen the English language skills of youth and help foster enthusiasm and love for reading.
  • To stimulate and support the African publishing industry and the development of African literature.
  • To increase the stock of English readers in established school libraries and other libraries.

What was the motivation behind the choice of English as the language for the competition?

The award was initiated to support and motivate the development of supplementary reading materials for a critical stage of learning - the transition period between mother-tongue and English medium instruction, in grade four or when starting secondary school.

Since the year 2000, countries in Africa have made remarkable progress in the development of basic education by increasing primary school enrolment and furthering the number of children entering secondary school.  However, students’ inability to effectively speak, understand and read in English can severely impede their ability to learn. Efforts to overcome this particular challenge are supported by the Burt Award for African Literature.

What is the process to select the winning titles?

In each country where the Award is established, six professionals are involved in judging the manuscripts.  Jury members are carefully selected by virtue of their knowledge and expertise in literature, linguistics, publishing and writing.  A week-long deliberation process determines winning titles. 

What will winning authors receive?  What about publishers?

Writers win monetary awards of $9,000 for first prize, $7,000 for second and $5,000 for third (CAD), while publishers receive a guaranteed purchase, which means that funds from the Award support the purchase of approximately 3,000 copies of each title to distribute to CODE supported schools and libraries.  As well, publishers agree to print additional copies to sell commercially.

Who will receive the titles?

CODE’s partner organizations, highly respected education and literacy organizations, are the local coordinators of the Award.  These organizations coordinate all activities related to the Award.  They will distribute the titles to schools and community libraries throughout their respective country. The organizations will also facilitate the use of these materials in schools and the greater community through activities such as the initiation of radio and live dramatizations of the titles and essay-writing contests. 

Will the titles be available in Canada?

CODE is investigating publishing and/or selling winning titles in Canada to support Canadian youth to read high-quality African literature. 

Finally, how does one submit a manuscript?

To read the submission criteria for each country, please visit the following links:
Burt Award – Tanzania
Burt Award – Ghana
Burt Award – Ethiopia
Burt Award – Kenya