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close this bookTechnical and Vocational Education for Rural Development: Delivery Patterns - Studies No. 9 (UNEVOC, 1997, 94 p.)
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Technical and Vocational Education for Rural Development: The Case of Kenya

Professor B. Wanjala Kerre
MOI University
Eldoret, Kenya


Over the past three decades, Kenya has experienced a relatively steady growth in the provision of education, health and several other essential services for her people. This has largely been due to the absence of political instability and continued financial support from the international community.

This growth has precipitated one of the highest population growth rates in the world (4% in the 80s), and tremendous growth in the education sector. By the year 2,000, Kenya’s population is estimated to reach 35 million, 78 per cent more than that of 1984. The population will include a work force of 14 million which will necessitate a doubling of jobs in Kenya (Kenya, 1986 p. 1), urban population is also anticipated to reach 9 to 10 million, 26-29 per cent of the population by the year 2,000 compared to only 15 per cent of the population in 1984 (Kenya, 1986 p. 41).

Education has expanded tremendously at all levels due to the government’s efforts and the parents’ determination to provide increased educational opportunities to young Kenyans. Currently, about one million children attend public and private nursery schools and about six million attending 15,000 primary schools in the country. There are about 650,000 students attending over 2,700 secondary schools. University education has also grown up and over 40,000 students enroled in the five public universities.

This growth has exerted increasing pressure on available resources in all sectors of the Kenyan economy leading to shortages of essential goods and services and rising levels of unemployment amongst the youth for most of whom primary level education has been terminal.

It was discovered as early as the 1970s that youth unemployment was on the increase because the formal employment sector was not absorbing the increasing labour force entrants due to limited capacity and in some cases because the new entrants did not have the right skills in demand.

This occurred at a time when various cadres of manpower especially those in the lower and middle level groups such as craftsmen and technicians were in high demand.

The growing population still lacked adequate supply of basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and health facilities and services which needed skilled manpower to provide. The increasing numbers of unemployed youths found their way into the informal sector which grew rapidly from the 1960s (ILO, 1972) and currently estimated to absorb 70 per cent of the entire workforce. This is expected to remain so into the future.

In 1985, the Kenyan government re-examined its national development policy in light of the increased demand on available resources and rising unemployment among the youth. In Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1986, the government policy framework adapted identified a set of goals and strategies that would guide the nation into the dawn of the 21st Century (Kenya, 1986).

The goals for renewed economic development policy included:

· Renewed economic growth with a target rate of 5.6 per cent for GDP from 1984 to 2,000;
· Accelerated employment creation especially in the private sector;
· Rising productivity in all parts of the economy;
· Provision of basic needs for all Kenyans;
· Food security;
· Improved rural-urban balance; and
· Gradual structural change from an agrarian into an urban-based industrial economy.

Amongst the most important strategies outlined in achieving the above goals are education and training. It was pointed out for example that employment in the government sector will no longer be guaranteed for university graduates and those from various training programmes. Thus as the numbers hired in government services decrease so will the training in government institutions. The cost of education and training will gradually shift to the beneficiaries and that such training will re-orient the curricula to the needs of the private sector (Kenya 1986 p. 107).

Present Trends in Rural Development

The Kenya government’s development strategy has a rural focus where the district, a smaller division in the administrative structure, has the authority to determine what project should be implemented in a given five year plan period. The country is divided into eight provinces which are in turn sub-divided into about fifty districts.

Development plans are usually drawn by district departmental heads of ministries under the co-ordination of the District Commissioner with wide representation from communities and local authorities (Kenya, 1989).

There are socio-cultural plans and economic plans containing policy guidelines and priority areas mainly oriented toward rural development.

The socio-cultural plans are mainly centred around five major areas: social service, community development, education and training and health services. Project and programme priorities in the district plans in this area focus on:

· the provision of assistance to women’s groups to increase their participation in community development;

· the assistance to growth development activities including youth polytechnics and other vocational training institutes;

· support for disadvantaged groups such as the disabled and destitute children;

· support for the expansion of both primary and secondary school education and;

· the provision of primary health care.

Government plans as reflected in the District Development Plans also reflect a rural focus. Project and programme priorities in this area are mainly focused on:

· improved food and cash crop production;
· education development (qualitative and quantitative);
· expansion of infrastructure;
· market centres and small towns development; and,
· expansion of manufacturing and service sectors.

A recent study into the socio-cultural and economic contents of cross-section of Kenya’s districts (Kerre, 1993) revealed several noteworthy trends:

· Rural-urban migration continues underrated so long as rural areas lack basic infrastructure and employment opportunities and that industrialization is concentrated in urban areas;

· Contrary to traditional beliefs, a significant number of households are currently headed by women most specially in densely populated areas and that most women are rapidly shifting their activities from purely social-welfare to income-generating activities;

· The attitude of the general public is changing positively towards the informal sector where the majority of the more than 500,000 new labour market entrants are accommodated;

· Most districts including those without suitable climate conditions have agro-based economies and are mainly constrained by the lack of adequate infrastructure including roads, electricity and water;

· There is a conspicuous lack of large scale and medium social industries in the districts;

· Most districts have identified their potential development needs and constraints. However, these priorities are most often unmet due to over-dependence on government grants and donor aid which have lately been scarce to get;

· The Jua Kali (Informal Sector) which now takes the lion’s share in the provision of employment opportunities needs more support with training and resources to start up or expand on existing businesses.

The Role of TVET in Rural Development

The government and the public at large have recognized the important role that technical and vocational education and training can play in development. In Kenya, youth polytechnics (YP) are the major institutions currently targeting the primary school leavers who average 250,000 each year, about 70% of primary school leavers who do not pursue secondary education.

The history of Youth Polytechnic training in Kenya goes back to the mid 1960s when the National Council of Christian Churches (NCC, 1960) raised the concern for primary school leavers. The Village Polytechnic Programme, as it was called then, was launched in 1968 in Central Province and Western Kenya. The primary goal of Village Polytechnics was to provide vocational training for the youth in rural areas. The institutions were mainly community initiated and supported under Kenya’s popular self-help spirit (Harambee).

In 1988 the report of the Presidential Working Party on Education and Manpower Training for the next Decade and Beyond (Kenya, 1988) further re-examined the question of training and recommended that:

· vocational training institutions include in their curriculum the teaching of entrepreneurship skills;

· graduates of vocational training institutions be assisted through a formalized credit system to establish themselves in self-employment and preferably on a co-operative basis;

· in an effort to implement the policy guidelines for renewed economic growth, the government supported the development of a strong vocational training network co-ordinated by a government ministry.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Research, Technical Training and Technology was established in 1988 to co-ordinate vocational training as well as the development of the Jua Kali (Informal) sector. Generally, vocational training and various informal sector activities targeted at increasing opportunities for youth employment have had considerable support from the government, both local and foreign donor agencies and particularly the World Bank, International Labour Office (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

TVET Delivery Patterns in Kenya

In Kenya tvet is delivered through three major delivery systems: the formal, non-formal and informal systems.

The Formal Tvet System

In the formal system two major delivery patterns are evident: one is the introduction of technical and vocational education in the school curriculum at both primary and secondary school levels (Kenya, 1985). At primary level, tvet subjects are: agriculture, art, art and craft, business education, home science and music. At the secondary schools level the tvet subjects are: agriculture, art and design, drawing and design, business education, building construction, electricity/electronics, metalwork power mechanics and woodwork. In this case, technical and vocational education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.

The second delivery pattern in the formal system is the post school institutions. These include:

· around 650 youth polytechnics, catering for over 40,000 students most of whom are primary school leavers;

· 17 technical training institutes and 21 institutes of technology with a population of about 10,000 students mainly secondary school graduates and offering craft and technician programmes.

· three national polytechnics with slightly over 10,000 students mostly secondary and higher level students and offering diploma certificate in various technical disciplines;

· several vocational training institutions attached to government ministries and parastatal organisations offering a wide range of programmes from artisan to diploma levels.

The non-formal TVET system

Besides the formal tvet system, Kenya has nonformal network of tvet institutions run by Non-Governmental Organisations, churches and individual proprietors. They offer various courses such as tailoring, bakery, metal fabrication etc. to specific target groups such as women groups, girls, street children, the handicapped etc.

The Informal TVET system

Recently, much interest has been expressed by individuals and community groups who seek to participate in income generating activities in the informal sector. A major activity in this area has been the apprenticeships taken by youth with experienced artisans in various trades. Community groups and individuals have also been targets for support of NGOs in acquiring specific skills to operate small enterprises.

Various government departments and institutions of higher learning also actively participate by offering short course in skill upgrading, farming and health care to: artisans, farmers, women groups, etc.

At this moment, Kenya does not have tvet programmes through long distance learning.

Challenges to TVET in Kenya

Kenya, like most of the other African countries in Africa, faces major challenges in the development and implementation of tvet. These include: economic decline, declining enrolments, lack of trained teachers and trainers, low status syndrome and more recently, the changing needs of society and the work place (Kerre, 1995).

A major concern has been the fear expressed by the critics of tvet that the programmes are still traditional in content and at most irrelevant to modern societal needs. It has been observed for example that youth polytechnics no longer address and fulfil the needs and demands of the communities in which they are set. There is a lot of duplication of courses even in communities where they are of no immediate use.

Despite the fact that women are numerically balanced in the general population and enrolment in tvet, they are still largely found in stereotyped courses such as dress making, home economics, hair-dressing e.t.c.

The lower status still ascribed to tvet and the high cost associated with tvet programmes have pushed enrolments towards service oriented theoretical programmes. It is cheaper to mount training courses in accounts and secretarial studies than putting up workshops and equipping them for technical subjects.

The heterogeneity of the informal sector is a major constraint as shown by Guerrero in Latin America (Guerrero, 1989 p. 159). The concept gives rise to different interpretations and hence the difficulty in estimating its potential for training and employment opportunities.

In Kenya, Walsh (1992) observed that while an enabling environment exists for critical evaluation of education and training for the informal sector, the training needs and capabilities of potential informal sector clients have not been determined.

Successful Innovations

National Policy Frameworks have been introduced to promote tvet and the development of the informal sector. Of particular interest have been the introduction of entrepreneurship education in all tvet programmes and the availability of credit facilities to potential entrepreneurs to start up or improve on their businesses. Today, more youth are looking forward to and getting into self employment rather than looking around for salaried employment.

Another notable innovation has been the introduction of production units in most vocational training institutions (VTIS). With declining government financial support, several institutions are offering products and services needed in the immediate environment. Such production units as furniture production, metal fabrication, bakery, water pump production, farming, horticulture etc. are a common find.

Collaboration between technological institutions and the Jua Kali sector has been encouraged. Several hundreds of artisans in this sector have benefited from short courses and workshops conducted at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Egerton University and Eldoret Polytechnic amongst others.

Further Strategies

Kenya as a young developing nation without an established sound industrial base is aware of its vulnerability in the economic liberalisation movement. The industrial base that has already taken root particularly in the informal sector has full government backing and has some measure of protection through the imposition of taxes on imports.

A more acclaimed strategy is the introduction of entrepreneurial education in tvet programmes and the creation of various credit facilities through banks and other financial institutions to enable entrepreneurs operate their enterprises successfully.

Concerted efforts between the government and a host of Non-Governmental Organisations have been directed toward community extension training programmes for farmers, women groups and youth in agriculture, horticulture, crafts, metalwork, furniture production and tailoring amongst others.

There is a major World Bank project aimed at the training in the Jua Kali (Informal sector) artisans to upgrade the technical skills and also acquire business management skills. As industrial activity picks up in both formal and informal sectors, there is a trend toward a demand - derived vocational training strategy for tvet in Kenya.


Guerrero, J.R. “Training for Informal Sector Enterprises in Latin America”, in Fred Fluitman (ed.). Training for Work in the Informal Sector: Geneva; ILO, 1989, p. 159-166.

International Labour Office, Employment, Incomes and Equity. A Strategy for Increasing Productive Employment in Kenya. Geneva: ILO, 1972.

Kenya, Republic of, The 8-4-4 System of Education: Ministry of Education, 1985.

Kenya, Republic of, Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1986 on Economic Management for Renewed Growth. Nairobi: Government Printer, 1986.

Kenya, Republic of, Report of the Presidential Working Party on Education and Manpower Training for the Next Decade and Beyond (Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1988). Nairobi: Government Printer, 1988.

Kenya, Republic of, District Development Plans (1989-93). Nairobi: Government Printer, 1989.

National Christian Council of Kenya: After School What? Nairobi: Division of Health Education, Ministry of Health, 1966 (Mimeograph).

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Kerre, B.W. Technical and Vocational Education in Africa: A Synthesis Case Studies: Daka: UNESCO African Region, 1995.

Walsh, M. Education, Training and the Informal in Kenya: Discussion Paper No. 33; ILO Training Department, Vocational Training Branch, Geneva, January, 199