The story is told of a man and his two sons. The man was the best at thatching roofs in and out of his village. Anyone who needed to get their roof done looked for him.
As he grew old, he tried to get his sons interested in laying thatch but they were too busy playing board games with their friends. Eventually, the old man could no longer work and was bedridden.
Since his sons could not work, they ended up hungry and their father died of starvation. Soon, the two young men were in the streets begging for food and the villagers would laugh at them as they looked for another person to thatch their roofs.
Have you ever tried to look for competent and reliable electricians, plumbers or painters? Most people will state how difficult it is to find competent people they can rely on.
We have shunned technical and vocational institutions such as polytechnics in the villages. This despite the polytechnics having over the years produced some of the best skilled artisans, more than most private and public universities.
Polytechnics were responsible for churning out skilled artisans in areas such as carpentry, welding, mechanic and tailoring. But with the glorification of university education, these institutions were demonised and most run down as people shunned them.
A while back, a higher diploma from a polytechnic or technical college was considered an equivalent of a university degree. However, due to the value that has been attached to universities, this is no longer the case.
For Kenya to become industrialised under Vision 2030 it must strengthen the technical and vocational education and training system, which has been eroded by low investment.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has a good vision of turning Kenya into a developed country through the Big Four agenda, whose one pillar is manufacturing. However, one of the gaps in manufacturing has been the skill set gap as a result of the death of technical institutions.
In this fast-changing world, young people not only need resources and knowledge but also technical skills enhancement. We need to ensure that we have less theoretical graduates and more skilled people if Kenya is to industrialise.
Last week, Education CS Amina Mohamed announced that learners in technical and vocational institutions will receive loans as high as Sh40,000 loans annually from the Higher Education Loans Board.
The government will also provide Sh30,000 capitation for each TVET trainee. It has reduced the annual training fee from Sh92,000 to Sh56,420. TVET institutions have 382,000 learners.
CS Amina said Sh26,400 of the Helb loan will be paid directly to TVET institutions for tuition. Another Sh13,600 will cater for trainees’ upkeep and will be deposited in their bank accounts. This will go a long way in ensuring that as many students as possible get the technical training this country badly needs.
But another challenge has been facing the technical institutions over the last two decades. Many young people, even those with a passion for technical work, have been shunning the institutions. Polytechnics were major institutions in the ’70s and ’80s and helped government deal with reducing the low rate of transition to institutions of higher learning.
According to the Constitution, county governments are in charge of basic education institutions and village polytechnics. This gives the counties an opportunity to help reform the education system.
In line with the Big Four agenda, we need to ensure that we have skilled people not only for the manufacturing but also the housing pillar. The best-trained architects need people with great skills to build the houses that we need.
The writer is a Political and communications consultant.