The return of drama and music festivals

These festivals identified and nurtured artistic talent but have been missing since pandemic

In Summary

• These were times when our country's cultural heritage was expressed through art

• Different primary and high schools prepared different items with the help of trainers

Students take part in the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival 2019
Students take part in the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival 2019
Image: FILE

The best thing about high school was going out for 'funkies'.

Whether it was academic symposiums, sports and tournaments, drama and music festivals, the weekend challenge, club-related functions, marathons like Mater Heart Run, Science and even Math Congress.

After reporting to school for a new term, most of us would always look out for chances where we could go out.

If you attended a boarding school that was all-boys or all-girls like myself, then I think you understand where I am coming from.

If your school hosted these functions, then that meant that even if you missed getting your name on the leave form, you would still get to attend the funkie, depending on the school's regulations.

My high school highlight was attending the Kenya National Drama and Music Festival.

These festivals were attended by kindergarten children through to university comrades.

Joining secondary school, I used to see teams actively training during the day and sometimes late in the night so they could bring their A-game on stage.

These festivals brought together very many schools, which meant getting new buddies to whom you could write letters, what we used to call 'lei', or even send sticky notes.

Through these festivals, we also met some of the giants in the art space who were competing at different levels: zonal, county, regional, national, and state gala levels.

Different primary and secondary schools prepared different items with the help of trainers and drama teachers, who acted as trainers.

The items included traditional and modern dances, Kiswahili, English and French plays, modern dances, poems, mimes, stand-up comedy and even solo verses.

These were times when our country's cultural heritage was expressed through art.

Some existing societal problems were addressed through these different forms of art.

This kept the history displayed from different communities living on.

Since Covid-19 broke out in the country and the school calendar was disrupted, a lot of school co-curricular activities were halted.

Today, as I connect with some of my trainers-turned-colleagues, and some of my former secondary schoolmates, we reminisce the great times and the bonds we established during the festivals.

For trainers, this was a job they were contracted to do, which gave them time to become teachers away from the classroom, make new friends with students and prepare unique items that would compete with other schools, where their friends, who were also trainers, were grooming the talents to win.

All this was done with an appreciation of our deep African culture, nurturing talents at an early stage, earning an income, performers gaining experience and performing to win.

Students who have attended school post-Covid have partly missed out on a lot, in terms of learning about new cultures and traditions, preservation of historical culture, building on talent as well as experiencing the thrill that comes with performing arts.

However, the Kenya Music Festival is set to resume in schools after a two-year break occasioned by Covid-19.

In a circular to regional, county and sub-county secretaries, Education PS Julius Jwan said the government had allowed resumption of co-curricular activities in learning institutions.

"The Ministry of Education, in consultation with key stakeholders, has decided that co-curricular activities resume fully in all basic learning institutions. In Term Two, 2022, primary and secondary school sports and music will be activated," Jwan said.

He said co-curriculum activities play a crucial role in the well-being of learners.

He also urged schools and teacher training colleges to prepare for them adequately.

The 94th national music festival will be held at Maseno University, Kisumu county, from September 16-23, with the state concert being held on September 24 at Kisumu State Lodge.

The PS said the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair and drama competitions will be held in term one of 2023.

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