Feature Issue on Transition in a Global Context for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Technical & Vocational Training Programs
Enrolment in vocational and technical training programs remains rare for people with disabilities in Kenya, despite the overall growth of these programs as the country strives to achieve prosperity goals set out in Kenya Vision 2030, a strategic plan for the future.
A report by the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) found that trainees with disabilities accounted for 3.5 percent of enrolment at vocational training centres. At national polytechnic and technical training institutions associated with higher-skilled learning, the proportion was below 1 percent. Trainees with physical disabilities accounted for nearly 34 percent of the total trainee population with disabilities, while those with a learning disability accounted for nearly 17 percent. (Kenya Institute of Special Education, 2019).
The report included quotes from several students with disabilities, who shared some of their struggles. “Because of my disability, I got garment making instead of food and nutrition,” one of them said.
Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is described by UNESCO (2015) as the type of education and training that provides knowledge and skills for employment. In some cases, TVET may be referred to as vocational education and training (VET) or vocational education (VE). In Kenya, the history of TVET training programs dates to the pre-colonial period, when the Native Industrial Training Depot (NITD) was established in 1924. At that time, vocational subjects taught were limited to auto repair, welding, masonry, and electronics. One exception was Egerton College (now Egerton University), established in 1939 to train agriculture officers to work on white settlers’ farms. Since then, policy changes and educational reforms have substantially altered TVET training programs.
After independence in 1963, the government, as well as the economy, were expanding, so there was an increasing demand for skilled labour. This led to the establishment of national technical secondary schools to increase opportunities for technical and vocational training. Additionally, different government ministries, departments and agencies established institutions to train people specifically for their line ministry.
The 1980s saw numerous changes in the history of TVET programs in Kenya. First, the government established technology institutes in each of its eight provinces that were equivalent to U.S. community colleges. The curriculum introduced in the mid-1980s emphasised the teaching of technical subjects in primary and secondary schools. Each school constructed workshops to facilitate the teaching of subjects such as woodworking, home economics, and others. Under the new curriculum, the national technical secondary schools were upgraded to technical training institutes to supplement the technology institutes. This implied that TVET programmes were offered only by the technology institutes, technical training institutes, and line ministry institutes.
Towards the end of the 1980s, however, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) were implemented as advised by the World Bank. A key component of SAPs was the freezing of further employment of civil servants. This denied most institutions in line ministries new enrolment, forcing them to open their doors to everyone. All kinds of courses were on offer, and some institutions without a legal mandate administered internal examinations and issued internal certificates. Others offered exams by other examining bodies, resulting in the fragmentation of TVET in the country.
Over the years, the uncontrolled and unregulated growth of the TVET education sector created challenges. Training outputs often failed to match the needs of the industry and many trainees couldn’t find jobs, even while industry lacked skilled labour. Some industries employed training managers and opened their own training centres, including Toyota Kenya’s Toyota Academy, but the gap between training and industry saw all manner of private commercial colleges proliferating and taking advantage of a weak legislative framework and poor monitoring system. In 2008, these shortcomings helped form the critical goals of Kenya Vision 2030, the previously mentioned document upon which today’s TVET programmes are based.
New Vision: Moving Forward
The document highlights 16 key areas of reform, including the establishment, financing and equipping of TVET institutions across the country. In 2011, two task forces (basic and higher education) were formed and their reports merged. Their final report culminated in a sessional paper that presented a policy framework for reforming education and training in Kenya (Ministry of Education, 2012). Reforms in the education sector included realigning technical and vocational training with the requirements of the labour market. The TVET Act 2013 was enacted by the parliament of Kenya to; (1) provide for the establishment of a technical and vocational education and training system; (2) provide for the governance and management of institutions offering technical and vocational education and training; (3) provide for coordinated assessment, examination, and certification; (4) institute a mechanism for promoting access and equity in training; (5) assure standards, quality, and relevance.
Today, the TVET sector of education is guided by the TVET Act 2013. Owing to inadequate regulation and monitoring, however, there is limited data in this sector. The available data shows that the TVET sector is organized into national polytechnics (NP), technical training institutes, and vocational training centres (VTCs). In total, there were over 1,300 TVET institutions (both public and private) across the country in 2018, out of which four were reserved for persons with disabilities. With emerging inclusive policy frameworks such as the Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities (2018), however, the trend is changing. The policy requires that anyone can be admitted in any learning institutions, regardless of their ability. Thus, all other TVETs are adopting universal designs to enhance accessibility of persons with all types of disabilities, and the four special TVETs now admit those without disabilities.
An earlier study by KISE (2018) was among the first national studies to examine issues of enrolment in the TVET sector. This study revealed that trainees with disabilities constitute 1.4% of total TVET enrolment. The study also found that the TVET sector is 56% male and 44% female.
Despite the opening of TVET training to people with all types of disabilities, the actual number of students with disabilities in training is quite small. Students with barriers to learning typically do not score well enough to earn high grades, so few qualify for further training. One solution is to provide opportunities for students with disabilities to begin training at a more introductory level and allow them time to build competency.
Further, people with disabilities need more information. Many are not aware they are allowed to join these institutions, and the schools also need to be better informed about their responsibility to admit students with disabilities.
It remains difficult to reach people with disabilities to let them know about these opportunities because many of them are still at home and not in school. The best we can do is to work closely with the primary schools to spread the word in their communities about the possible future pathways for these young people.
Kenya Institute of Special Education. (2018). Situational Analysis of Uptake of Inclusive Education Practices in Technical and Vocational Training Institutions in Kenya.
Kenya Institute of Special Education (2019). Situational Analysis of Inclusive Education Practices in TVETs in Kenya. https://bit.ly/3yIyUUo
Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education, Science & Technology (2012). Reforming Education and Training Sectors in Kenya. https://bit.ly/3nZB3q3
Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Education (2018). Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities.
The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act. (2013). https://bit.ly/2KxanH3
UNESCO Global Monitoring Report. (2015). Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges. https://bit.ly/3RBunMn