Cultivating a reading and story writing culture

Tuesday December 18 2018

Writing and reading short stories help to

Writing and reading short stories help to sharpen language skills for students.. PHOTOI ELIZABETH TUNGARAZA 

By Elizabeth Tungaraza

Writing and reading short stories help to sharpen language skills for students. Knowing the importance of cultivating a reading and story writing culture, Soma Book Café based in Dar es Salaam organized a short story writing competition for students where 200 entries were submitted this year.

Poverty was the main theme for the 2017/18 competition and students were offered plenty of support for them to write their short stories centered on the theme. Out of the 200 submitted entries this year, Otilia Haule emerged the winner.

“We help groom young storytellers and literature entrepreneurs to enable them to write their own short stories,” said Soma Book Café director, Demere Kitunga.

A week before the award ceremony, a five-day training session was held for 10 finalists selected among students who participated in the competition. During the training which kicked off on December 3 and ended on December 7 this year, two literature writers, Neema Komba and Elias Mutani nurtured the finalists’ writing skills especially on how to write short stories.

Speaking to Success, Neema said the training was fruitful, expressing her optimism that the skills students acquired during the five-day session would help them become good future storytellers.

“Participants were taught about the methods which will help them in writing short stories. They will be able to generate ideas about their own environment and expand the idea into a story,” she explained.


Neema appealed to more youth, especially students to participate in such competitions and try their luck.

Nurturing writing skills of the top ten finalists does not end during or after the award ceremony. According to the trainers, the finalists have the opportunity to gain the knowledge as mentorship continues for three months after the closure of the competition.

Emmanuel Minja, a student at the African Leadership University in Rwanda, came all the way from Kigali to participate in the training for the top ten finalists.

“I didn’t want to miss this chance. The training has equipped me with skills that I can use in writing as many short stories as I can. A visit to publishing companies during the training was an eye opener for me. I personally met a famous literature writer, Shafi Adam Shafi, the author of a famous book “Mbali na Nyumbani”, said Emmanuel who took part in the competition when he was a student at Benjamin Mkapa Secondary School in Dar es Salaam.

Taking its positive impacts to students, Elias advises parents to allow their children to participate in such competitions. “Denying children an opportunity to take part in writing competitions is like depriving them of their right to knowledge,” he said.

Elias urged parents to be the first role model for their children by supporting them especially when seeing individual efforts to achieve something valuable rather than failing them. “Parents need to change and start supporting their children so that they can achieve their dreams,” he said.

He pointed out a case in which parents of one of the top ten finalists denied their child the opportunity to take part in the training. “We had to replace him with another student,” noted the trainer, saying: “Who knows, had it not been his parents’ action, he could have been the winner and scooped the first prize.”

Otilia has every reason to thank her parents for allowing her to participate in the 2017/18 competition. She proved that their decision was worth it as she emerged the winner, defeating competition from 200 short story entries submitted this year.

Otilia was happy and shy at the same time after her name was mentioned as the winner of the “Andika na Soma” Short Story Competition.

Otilia, who is currently a first-year University of Dodoma student, wrote her short story for the competition titled: ‘Mvumilivu hula mbivu’ when she was a student at St. Louise Secondary School last year.

She pocketed Sh500,000 cash prize and went home with her own books worth Sh500,000 while Soma Book Café also awarded her former school, St. Louise Secondary School, a collection of books worth Sh500, 000 for its library.