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Kirinyaga establishes homecraft centers in polytechnics

Kirinyaga County Government has established home craft centers in selected youth polytechnics to assist community members acquire skills for self-employment.

The centers offer skills in areas such as beadwork, weaving, soap making, leatherwork, knitting, and tailoring and there are no prerequisite academic qualifications for anyone to join.

During an exhibition held at Kamiigua Youth Polytechnic over the weekend, different trainees displayed their handmade products such as doormats, knitwear, weaved lessos commonly referred to as kikois, beadwork products such as flower vases, pen and serviette holders as well as leather sandals, clothes, and bags.

A woman uses a weaving machine to weave a kikoi at Kamiigua Polytechnic in Kirinyaga County. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

The polytechnics that have established home craft centers are Kamiigua, Kimwea, Kibingoti, Nyangati, Kiamikuyu, Kiambatha, Ngucui, and Mutitu.

Governor Anne Waiguru has said that her government has been providing the required tools and equipment to enable the smooth running of the programme, thus trainees are not required to pay for the home craft courses.

She added that her government is committed to offering sustained quality and inclusive training that would produce appropriate skilled artisans and technicians.

“The polytechnics impart marketable skills and technical know-how that will enable graduates to fit into contemporary labor markets especially in the informal sector and also prepares them for self-employment,” she said.

Terrence Njiru, the Principal Kamiigua Polytechnic said that the advantage of enrolling in-home craft courses is that they are tailor-made to fit into the time schedules of trainees and they were not limited to any age.

He said that enrolling in a home craft course also lays a foundation for people who would like to pursue higher-grade levels.

Njiru said that the home craft center at Kamiigua was introduced to fill the skills gaps that have been hindering members of the surrounding community from engaging in productive income-generating activities.

He noted that home craft contributed towards rural poverty eradication especially nowadays when job opportunities were diminishing.

“The initiative is also a step towards the realization of the manufacturing pillar of the Big Four Agenda whereby the local people can make some of the products that are currently imported,” said Njiru.

The home craft programme in the county has so far benefitted 1,100 students while 70 instructors have also been trained on how to conduct the programme.

Most of the beneficiaries of the programme that have already graduated and been certified have opened their own businesses using the skills they gained at the centers.

Eunice Wairimu Maina is one of the beneficiary. After successfully undertaking a sewing course at Kamiigua Polytechnic and getting certification, she is now running her own business in Kerugoya town where she earns money for her family’s upkeep.

She said that besides being self-employed and employing other women in her business, she has been mentoring other apprentice tailors and imparting them with the skills she gained.

Wairimu encouraged other women to enroll in home craft courses in order to gain skills that would enable them to employ themselves. She noted that the courses were very flexible and hence it is easy to attend and still have time for other family chores.

Johnson Maina who is currently a Mechanic Trainee at Kiambwe Polytechnic is undertaking home craft training in beadwork alongside mechanics to maximally utilize his time at the polytechnic.

He said that he aimed at getting an extra coin from the bead products he makes by selling them to car owners among other customers.

“When I am repairing someone’s car, I will have an opportunity to market and sell to them some of my bead products such as serviette holders and other car accessories,” said the 20-year-old youth, advising fellow young men to join polytechnics where they could gain technical skills that would increase their employability or enable them to start their own businesses.

Other beneficiaries have been making money after selling products such as doormats, sweaters, dresses, leather shoes and bags.

Other than the home craft centers, the mainstream courses offered at the polytechnics include motor vehicle mechanics, electrical installation, masonry, garment making, hairdressing and beauty, carpentry and joinery, metalwork and fabrication. Computers and ICT short courses are also offered.

Graduates of polytechnics could be employed in the hospitality sector, the fast-growing hair and beauty industry, furniture making industry, construction industry, clothes and textile industry as well as an interior designing industry among others.

By Irungu Mwangi

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