If technical vocational education and training colleges are the engines which will lead Kenya to increased economic growth and job creation, the Kenya Technical Trainers College is the fuel on which they will run.
Yet for the college, which elegantly sits on 88 hectares in Gigiri, Nairobi, neighbouring the UN, American and Canadian embassies, the role of being the country’s premier institute for technical teachers comes with huge challenges.
According to the chief principal Hilda Omwoyo, the 42-year old college has a capacity for 4,500 but can only accommodate 1,080 students in the hostels.
With the Covid -19 pandemic which has so far killed more than 600 Kenyans and infected more than 35,000 others, the college will only be able to accommodate 511 in order to adhere to the health guidelines, notably social distancing.
“Our biggest disadvantage with regard to accommodation is ironically our location. We are in a secure and most prime neighbourhood but that has meant that our students who fail to get accommodation on campus have to look elsewhere and given our affluent surroundings, they cannot afford the rents, “says Mrs Omwoyo. Rent in nearby townships such as Gachie and Ruaka is way above what ordinary students can afford.
Like many Tvet colleges which can’t provide adequate accommodation to their students, KTTC operates below capacity most of the time. Because it is the country’s only trainer of technical teachers, that is a huge setback given that the country has 11 national polytechnics, 933 vocational and technical colleges and 1,247 vocational centres, all of which draw most their tutors from KTTC.
This year alone, out of 689,007 candidates who sat Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) last year, 88,724 have been enrolled in TVET institutes, 53,726 of whom will study for diplomas, 29,112 for craft certificates and 5,886 for artisan certificate courses.
According to Principal Secretary in charge of Vocational and technical Training Dr Julius Jwan, the colleges have a shortage of 4,500 trainers.
Mrs Omwoyo says that though the college’s library, workshops, laboratories and Information Communication Technology centre are well equipped, most Tvets have superior and state-of-the-art machinery that KTTC tutors are not familiar with.
“At times our trainees are disadvantaged because they get posted to colleges which have equipment that they have not interacted with here at KTTC. We ought to have samples of all equipment that is in Tvets so our tutors and trainees master how to use them, “she says, adding that the college operates with computers donated to it in 2009 but which are in “dire need of an upgrade.”
Given that all our students must take a mandatory ICT course in their first year, she says, the need to modernise the ICT centre is urgent.
“Where it’s not possible to buy expensive equipment for KTTC, we will be beginning a system in which our trainees and tutors tour well-equipped Tvets to familirarise themselves with the machinery.’’
The college is in the process of adopting a new curriculum – the competency based education and training (Cbet) – in line with the competency-based curriculum in basic education, and has developed a framework and learning manuals for the new system for rollout in January.
“Our freshers who will be joining in January will certainly be taken through the Cbet curriculum to prepare them to handle it when they are eventually posted in Tvets,” she says.
Mrs Omwoyo says she is worried by the attrition rate among the trainers with most approaching the retirement age while the replacement rate is not as quick. Thirteen of them out of an establishment of 210 are expected to retire at the end of this year.
She says the college, like other learning institutions, is struggling with a new generation of trainees who are hooked to social media, alcohol, drugs and general indiscipline. “But we are working to strengthen our guidance and counselling departments in addition to our mentorship and career guidance programmes.”
Significantly, the college has quickly adapted to the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic by producing its own handwashing stations, hand sanitisers and detergents which have been placed strategically around the institution. The products, which the institute is preparing to begin distributing for commercial purposes, have been certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
Remarkably, the college is putting up a Sh290 million Institutional Management Complex to serve as a training centre and a hotel. The complex, which is 80 per cent complete, will offer courses in food and beverage, clothing and textile as well as hotel accommodation. It has a training centre, guest rooms, seminar halls and a fitness centre.
“Being home to technical education, we needed a facility that would offer both school skill training and on the job training to expose the trainees to a real work environment,” says Mrs Omwoyo. The complex, which will target hosting high-end guests from the surrounding embassies and the UN, was started in 2013 and is expected to be completed this year.
“We are hoping it will help us attain high levels of training and generate income for us through accommodation so we can expand and upgrade our other learning facilities,” she says.
In building the complex, the college will be following in the footsteps of other learning institutions especially those in the technical field which are already selling home-developed products or services to the community the Rift Valley Technical Training Institute, for example, has won several international awards for delivery of Tvet curriculum and a more than Sh100 million for research and innovation.
The institute has a garage which is open to the public. It has also come in handy recently by making beds for covid-19 patients. Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology also makes bread, cakes and furniture.
Another KTTC project, which is in the works but has stalled at 90 per cent completion, is a standard workshop, meant to house electrical and electronic centres.
The Sh53 million construction, which was started in 2012, has stalled due to a disagreement between the college and the contractor over cost variations. The project was started in April 2011 and was meant to be completed in 48 weeks. The disagreement was arbitrated in court and last August the contractor was ordered to complete the project in 14 days but has not done so.