Kenya to cut arts education fund for technical schools

Kenyan universities could face slashed governmental allocations beginning next financial year if some of the funds are diverted to technical institutions. The move is part of the changes contained in a new curriculum that is expected to take effect in May this year. If implemented, this will make a radical shift to technical and science courses against arts and social sciences.

Education, science and technology cabinet secretary, Fred Matiang’i, says he will lobby for increased number of students taking technical courses as opposed to those studying arts at the universities.

The fund raised from the cuts will be given to the country’s Higher Loans Education Board to advance loans to students of technical training institutions, he adds.

Matiang’i says that many students are opting to study commerce, arts and theology instead of technical ones.

“We have filled up our universities, and even expanded them with students acquiring education in areas that we do not have development needs,” Matiang’i said last month (23 January) in Nairobi at the commissioning of some 3,000 candidates joining Technical Vocational Education and Training.

According to Matiang’I, Kenya has many graduates with degrees for jobs that do not exist. “This notion that Technical Vocational Education and Training education is less prestigious should be done away with,” he noted.

But Beatrice Muganda, director, higher education programme at the Kenya-based Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, says arts and technical education are both necessary and there is no need to cut arts funding.

Taking Matiang’i’s route, according to Muganda, would lead to skewed growth favouring sciences and stifling arts and humanities. “Dwindling growth of the university sector will lead to unemployment. But before we get there, there will be apathy with massive student protests,” she explained.

Muganda emphasises that education is not just about fixing technical things in kitchens and roofs, but about research and generation of new knowledge to help the country make great leaps in socio-economic development as well as significant democratic gains.

“Every individual is unique and education is an enabler that should help them develop their full potential and contribute to society,” she says citing musicians, artists, writers, mathematicians and scientists as important for national development.

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By Baraka Rateng’