By Felix Omondi Otieno
Youth polytechnics were initiated by the National Council of Churches of Kenya in 1968. The objective was to find solutions to youth unemployment in Kenya. The NCCK believed that youth polytechnics would adopt a diversified curriculum that would in the end alter the negative attitude of young people towards manual work and rural livelihood.
They aimed for a curriculum that would generate interest in vocational studies, match the skills in the market with knowledge acquired in classrooms, reduce youth migration to urban and integrate schools with communities.
In 1971, the Kenyan Government started supporting youth polytechnics built by local communities and churches. By then, there were about 55 youth polytechnics(village polytechnics) involved in training high school graduates in various vocational subjects(e.g welding, Accounts, mechanics , catering, carpentry & teaching). Their growth however became more and more intermittent and they eventually died sometimes in the late 80s.
Despite the unfortunate down turn and the challenges that led to the flop of youth polytechnics, the churches never lost their faith. In 1988, the Catholic church, Nyamonye mission, under Fr. Kraakman, a German missionary priest, started Eiden Youth Polytechnic Abidha. By mid 90s, only Abidha and Ndere Youth Polytechnics in Siaya County were operational. This story is shared by many counties in Kenya. A story of how great ideas could be left to die.
Noticing that youth polytechnics were getting into oblivion, the Kenyan government put in place certain motions that aimed at revitalizing youth polytechnics. This led to the development of Kamunge Report in 1988 which proposed a number of recommendations amongst them, provision of basic facilities and equipment, capacity building and improved terms of service for the instructors. These were never implemented.
More recently, after the election of president Mwai Kibaki in 2002, the government renewed their efforts to revitalize, strengthen and streamline the operations of youth polytechnics. For example, in sessional paper No.1 of 2005, â€œA POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR EDUCATION, TRAINING AND RESERCHâ€ The contribution of youth polytechnics to human capital development was hugely recognized. This led to the development of the National policy for youth polytechnics and vocational Training sector.
In December 2005, the Government, recognizing the social and economic impact of youth and the need for youth empowerment programs, decided to create the ministry of state for youth affairs & sports(MOYA). This led to National policy for youth polytechnics and vocational trainings sector plan. This plan accepted the difficult situations that youth polytechnics are facing and proposed the following areas of interventions:
1. Governance & management
2. Training programs & quality.
3. Infrastructure facilities and Equipment.
4. Financing & Partnership.
5. Human resource development & management.
The 2010 constitution has in its very provision allowed the national government to devolve youth polytechnic functions. Theoretically, this poses both doubts and promises but the question is; does it mark the end of work started by the N.C.C.K in 1968?.
Looking at policies, budget allocations and Human resource focus of county governments for the last two years, it appears that youth polytechnic functions are somewhere at the bottom of the list of many priorities. Majority
of county executives do not even fully understand the roles of youth polytechnics and they see them as least significant in the broader picture. To create meaningful impacts on youths, to diversify opportunities , expand county markets, promote entrepreneurship and self reliance, county governments must now step up efforts to address desperate staffing issues that now affects training in the youth polytechnics, develop strategies to improve enrollment and infrastructure.
I trust that the transition Authority did their work but Whether or not county governments will continue in the footsteps of national government still remains to be seen. Itâ€™s imperative that the Governors and their council realize that this is their call.