Online learning is the way to go, says Hellen Mtawali

The greatest challenge was connectivity, especially with rural contestants

In Summary

• Government experimented with a music, drama and performing arts programme

Hellen Mtawali
Hellen Mtawali

As the pandemic-induced lockdown hurts schooling, the government has successfully piloted a music, drama and performing arts programme.

The four-week training was conducted on Google Meet and Zoom, and saw more than 300 high school and one primary school pupil register their interest.

Speaking to Word Is, renowned actress, music lecturer and and singer Hellen Mtawali said the project, though given a short period, has borne very encouraging results.


“The feedback is amazing. Online learning is the way to go. I am getting messages from all over the world as parents request classes for their children,” she said.

The initiative is run by the Culture and Heritage ministry in collaboration with Nairobi Performing Arts Studio. 

Hellen said the objective of the competition is for the youths to express their talents, and also to see whether it is possible to conduct practical lessons, such as music and drama, online.

"They were taught for four weeks through Google Meet lessons. Specific days for class and extra classes to ensure they are well taught and are ready to sing," she said.

"There was an award for drama winners, who got six scholarships, while for musicians, we got 12 producers to work with the finalists."

The greatest challenge was connectivity, especially with contestants from the rural areas.

"Students who fared better had WiFi Internet connectivity in their homes, but those in rural areas suffered connectivity challenges as they would log on and then fall off when their network frustrates them," she said, adding that she made extra classes to cover up for such failures.


This was the first edition of such a competition by the government. They picked 300 high schoolers who were interested in the training.

"We narrowed down to 12, who have each been given a producer to help them come up with an original song, which will then be voted for through social media for the overall winner," she said.

"The government needs to support as many pupils as possible with access to the Internet so learning is possible in uniform across the country."

Hellen says the four weeks weren't enough and so she plans to advance and empower those who have already won awards.

"We had three teachers. It was relatively easy to teach online and even reach larger numbers of learners, so I believe this can be scaled up in future," she said.

"In this first stage of winning, they are going to studio to produce an original song. In the second stage, they will create hype for their songs on social media so their fans and friends will be waiting to listen and vote for them.

"The final stage is where the most-voted-for song will be selected as overall winner."