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TVETs hold key in empowering marginalized rural Kenya

A journey to the extreme west of Taita Taveta County is not a mean feat. Even in a 4×4 wheel drive Ford double cabin truck, it is a treacherous journey that puts the skills of the driver to the ultimate test.

The winding paths are rough, rocky, and steep as one drives to Wumingu in the western frontier of Taita Sub-county.

On Friday 30th September 2022, a convoy of national and county government officials dared the unforgiving terrain and scorching heat of Kishushe and headed to Wumingu Technical and Vocational College at the slopes of Funju.

The mission was to conduct a boots-on-the-ground assessment of the college and set in motion construction works for boys and girls hostels to boost the college’s student population.

Were it not for the Wumingu TVET College, the sleepy and harsh-weather Kishushe would not have played host to a national and county government delegation that brought good news for both locals and the rest of the county.

“We’re not used to high-ranking government officials coming this far to Kishushe. It is because of the college that we’re playing host to this delegation and it is a bright day for us and the county in general,” said Boniface Mwanjala, a local and parent to a first-year student in the college.

The Principal Secretary (PS) State Department for Vocational and Technical Training Dr. Margaret Mwakima was present and she reiterated the National Government resolve to have a TVET college in every constituency in Kenya.

“The government is steadfast on the promise for a public TVET College in every constituency in Kenya. Today, we’re here to fulfill that promise to the Taita constituency,” said Dr. Mwakima.

Dr. Mwakima was there to set in motion the construction of boys’ and girls’ hostels at Wumingu Technical & Vocational College. The hostels is deemed a strategic move that would attract more students to the center and tap into the vibrancy of the institution for the development of the community.

“The hostels will be an incentive for more students to join this institution. With more students and more activities, the community will reap the benefits of providing professional, and casual labour, as well as supplying commodities to the college,” said Dr. Mwakima.

So far, the national government through the State Department for Vocation and Technical Training has invested in the excess of Sh160 million to construct a teaching block, equip the technical and ICT laboratories and offer grants to students from poor backgrounds.

“The national government is committed to seeing the benefits of technical education trickle down to the grassroots. Over Sh160 million has been invested here in terms of construction, equipment, and grants to students,” PS Mwakima added.

Lucy Maghanga, a first-year student at the college said her education journey would have hit a dead end were it not for the Wumingu College in her village. “My education journey would have ended after completing primary school. But thanks to this college, I have a bright future and not only me and my family but also the rest of the community,” said Lucy.

Lucy and many of her peers did not perform well enough in their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) to get slots in any nearby secondary schools and thus faced a dilemma on what to do next in their thirst for education.

Fortunately Wumingu TVET College was established offering the much needed solace to Lucy and her colleagues. They not only got admitted to the college but also secured partial grants from the government to cover their school fees.

“The college did not look at us as failures but as individuals with potential in technical areas. We not only got a chance to join the institution but also secured grants to cover part of our college fees,” said Peter Mwadime, another first-year student at the college.

Nationally there are 234 public TVET Colleges, a milestone a little shy away from one college in every constituency as the national government anticipates.

Mostly located at far flung areas of the country, these TVET colleges have become a beacon of hope to technically potential students besides speeding up development in these areas.

“We have 234 functional public TVET colleges around the country and we’re on course to clock the milestone of a college in each constituency. Students who would have been left out of the education discourse are now in these colleges and remote villages are getting bottom-up empowerment,” said Dr. Mwakima.

Each student in every public TVET college qualifies for Sh30, 000 educational loan to cover part of the Sh56, 000 average cost for each course offered.

According TVET Director Tom Mulati, the affordable cost and funding is meant to ensure that no student is left out in the agenda of empowering communities through a competency approach from the grassroots.

“The courses are not only affordable, but students also get educational loans. We’re making sure no student is left out of the transformative agenda to empower everyone through a competency approach to education and development,” said Mr. Mulati.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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