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Two Kenyan dons, TVETs clinch prestigious global awards

Two career educationists and three Technical and Vocational Education and Training have thrust Kenya on the world map after being feted by the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP).

Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology (RVIST) Principal Sammy Chemoiwo was awarded a gold medal in Leadership in Inclusivity category, while his immediate predecessor Dr. Daniel Mutai was feted with a silver medal in the Lifetime Achievement award category, during the sixth edition of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics 2023 TVET excellence for all awards held in Montreal, Canada.

At the same time, the 43-year-old RVIST won a gold medal for the Sustainable Development Goals Award, Harare National Polytechnic of Zimbabwe took home the silver, while Australian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institute got the bronze.

Dr. Mutai said the awards were telling the world that Kenyan TVETS have done a good job, adding that it goes into global records that the country had made a mark.

WFCP 2023 Awards of Excellence recognized outstanding contributions from member institutions, individuals and associations’ exceptional initiatives, which are strengthening applied learning and research outcomes.

The congress, touted as the largest professional and technical education event in the world, was attended by more than 700 delegates from 50 countries and six continents.

Both Kenya School of TVET and Nairobi Technical Training Institute clinched bronze medals for the Teacher Professional Development Award and the Applied Research and Innovation Award categories respectively.

WFCP is a global network of individual, national and regional associations of colleges, with those in Kenya represented through the Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutions (KATTI).

Earlier during the fifth edition of the WFCP 2022 Congress that was held in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, Dr. Mutai who retired in February last year won a bronze medal in the Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award category, becoming the first-ever Kenyan to win the award.

The 61-year-old who has been a TVET instructor for 34 years and a principal for more than 10 years, also served at Bureti, Shamberere and Eldoret national polytechnics

He has also supervised and guided the establishment of four young technical training institutions with minimum resources including Belgut Vocational Training College and Kericho Township Vocational College.

Dr. Mutai has been working with various experts in actively formulating simple solutions that can be co-opted into and applied by post-secondary institutions to make a difference to the communities they serve.

His work has been included in the fourth volume of the World’s Best Practice Guide in Professional Technical Education and Training.

Dr. Mutai who was flanked by his spouse Mrs Alice Mutai who is also a tutor at RVIST, said Africa’s leap to new industrialized status was being hampered by overemphasis on University Education as opposed to acquisition of technical skills through TVETS.

The former Principal added, “The youth will change their mindset on degrees and embrace blue as opposed to white collar jobs through training of artisans, when they realize labour is in short supply in these fields,”

He said the country was grappling with a shortage of plumbers, masons, painters and electricians, yet at the moment these are the jobs that are well paying.

“TVETs play a very central role in any country’s social-economic wellbeing. They offer skills that power innovation and industrialization thereby boosting the economy and creating jobs. Any country that fails to strengthen its TVET ecosystem starts bringing in expatriate masons, plumbers, electricians and such like technicians” observed Dr. Mutai.

While hailing a proposal by the national government to staff and equip village polytechnics, Dr. Mutai said world over the labour market was now shifting towards practical-based skills, adding that a significant number of students qualified to join university were enrolling in national polytechnics and technical training institutes.

Dr. Mutai has a Bachelor of Education (Technology Education), a Master of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Communication and Technology from Moi University.

“This is such a momentous and important occasion at the hallmark of my life. It is quite difficult to put feelings into words. I’m indeed truly and deeply honoured to accept the Lifetime Achievement award accorded to me,” said the former principal in his acceptance speech.

“I dedicate the award to managers of TVET institutions, associations, colleges and polytechnics who are committed to setting global standards in leadership, and who seek to expand and offer equitable opportunities to communities globally,” he said.

On her part, Mrs. Mutai while noting that her husband had been relentless in his efforts to champion diversity and inclusion, particularly in TVET and bringing about positive change for youth empowerment in Kenya and globally termed as detrimental the move to convert technical institutes and polytechnics to constituent university colleges or full- fledged universities, saying this was undermining technological development.

She expressed concern that the country’s educational institutions are churning out more quantity surveyors, engineers and architects than the number of skilled artisans such as plumbers, masons, electricians and painters graduating from Technical Vocational Education Training (TVETS) institutions and polytechnics.

On the other hand, Chemoiwo said RVIST trains students in mitigation of climate change, sustainable agriculture, agriculture engineering and renewable energy.

“As an institution, we have been championing mitigation of climate change through various avenues and we include it in the training of our 12,000 students. We inculcate life skills so that all activities that students undertake they will use them to ensure we have a climate-friendly environment,” said Chemoiwo.

He went on “We have been focusing on 13 Sustainable Development Goals and have set up various committees which are running specific programs inside and outside the institute on clean environment, food nutrition and security, climate change, youth empowerment and availability of clean and sufficient water among others.

The principal disclosed that the institution had rolled out initiatives such as sustainable agriculture geared towards safeguarding the environment, expanding the earth’s natural resource base and maintaining and improving soil fertility.

“Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network Global and the United Nation are some of our collaborators where our staff and students have offered themselves to acquire skills that they pass on to their communities in the fight against climate change,” Chemoiwo indicated.

The institute, he added was training students from marginalized communities to identify seeds and trees they can plant in their regions, here at the institution and then take them home to plant during the rainy season.

He indicated that RVIST was partnering with Geothermal Development Company (GDC) and Triple X among others to leverage on value addition from renewable energy,” added Chemoiwo.

Researchers and students at RVIST are also exploring the use of technologies and innovations like solar irrigation, digital agriculture, climate-smart agriculture and climate-smart breeding, as ways of tackling the negative effects of climate change.

Other technologies the institute is rooting for include bio-fortification and use of climate-smart seed varieties.

“The climate is changing so fast that current technologies won’t be able to keep up. Innovators in climate smart technologies must up their game,” Chemoiwo explained.

He insisted that there was a need for concerted efforts among private and public industry stakeholders to give more attention to research.

Meanwhile, in undertaking the climate change mitigation program, RVIST has also been collaborating with Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network Global, the United Nations, Kenya Power, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the County Government of Nakuru and Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).

“We involve our research unit to impart skills to our students so that when they complete their studies they will help the communities boost food production. We train communities how to use borehole water and steam instead of discarding boreholes with hot steam,” the principal added.

The state owned GDC is exploring for steam at Menengai Crater, while RVIST is collaborating with the corporation to tap into the skills and pass them to the students.

According to Chemoiwo, RVIST is partnering with community-based institutions based in Narok and Baringo counties to promote climate change awareness.

“We have picked students from Baringo and trained them how to raise seedlings,” said Chemoiwo, adding that every student is given 100 tree seedlings that they go and plant in their environment.

“In our next financial year, our target is to have a million tree seedlings. We sell 60 per cent and 40 per cent we donate to the community as part of our contribution to the government’s ambitious project to plant 15 billion trees in the next five years,” said the Principal.

He thanked RVIST staff for their teamwork, resilience, synergy and commitment to duty that saw the planning and implementation of many focal projects at the Nakuru-based institution that enabled him to win the global award.

The principal also thanked the state department of Vocational and Technical Training in the Ministry of Education for supporting his projects.

RVIST also hosts the annual Agri-business expo and participates in Agricultural Society of Kenya Trade Fairs.

By Anne Mwale and Dennis Rasto 

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