They came out tops in last year’s KCSE examinations and were assured of admission to prestigious degree courses and universities of their choice, but they have chosen a different path.
Bruno Sharif Kahindi, who scored an A of 81 points and who would have been enrolled to pursue a medicine course at the University of Nairobi, will instead join the Nairobi Technical Training Institute for a diploma in pharmaceutical technology.
His counterpart Titus Mokaya Ogamba, who scored an A- of 80 points, will trot to Masinde Muliro University to enroll for a diploma in music and dance.
The pair join more than 2,000 students who qualified for university admission last year, but who have opted to pursue diploma courses in technical and vocational institutions.
Statistics from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) shows that 2,632 candidates, who would have been enrolled for university degrees, have instead been offered places in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
Other top performers in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations, who have chosen to join TVET colleges, are Emily Muhoria, who scored an A- and will study a diploma in chemical engineering and Mohamed Dowa, who has been admitted to Kagumo Teachers Training College to study a diploma in education despite scoring an A-.
KUCCPS data released on Tuesday also shows that 280 candidates who scored a B plain and above opted for diplomas in TVET colleges, snubbing some of the most competitive degree programmes in both public and private universities.
The students, who Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha described as TVET champions, include 11 students with A- and 66 with B+.
On Wednesday, KUCCPS chief executive John Muraguri explained that the top candidates were placed in institutions of their choices.
“We had applications made in schools, they did first and second revision and most of them affirmed that they wanted to study those courses,” he said on the telephone.
He said a number of students do not see the need to study for degree courses when they can take diploma courses which have more prospects in terms of employment and job opportunities.
However, he regretted that some learners only applied for courses while in secondary schools and did not make any follow up during revision.
“We therefore had no choice, but to place them where they wanted. But they will have an opportunity for transfers,” Mr Muraguri said.
School application marked the beginning of the placement process that saw applications from 2,228 of the 10,289 registered schools submit their candidates’ choices/preferences, which translated to 21.65 per cent.
“The placement board is concerned about this low participation of schools at this important stage of the placement process.
‘‘To address this concern, the board recommends to the Ministry of Education that it considers issuing a policy guideline to all schools, especially those with candidates eligible for placement to TVET institutions, to ensure that they submit the applications on behalf of their KCSE candidates for university and TVET placement,” Mr Muraguri said.
The TVET candidates were among 125,463 others who were eligible for placement to degree programmes.
Majority of the students opted for engineering, building and civil engineering, information technology, architecture, electrical and electric engineering, aeronautical engineering, pharmaceutical technology, civil engineering, computer science and building economics (quantity surveying), among others.
The most sought-after colleges, which offer diplomas in technical courses, are the Technical University of Kenya, Technical University of Mombasa and national polytechnics.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akelo Misori said that unlike in the past, students are now taking courses that add value.
“We should support TVET sector because that is the future and we should allow students to take courses of their choice,” Mr Misori said.
He urged the government to strengthen career guidance in schools so that learners are advised accordingly.
He said many schools still struggle in terms of developing capacities of teachers to guide students on the right courses to pursue after secondary school.
Kenya should not be left behind
Educationist Andiwo Obondo said the world is moving towards TVET and Kenya should not be left behind.
“The decade of campaign is paying off now as we are giving premiums to TVET courses. Technology and engineering are now the drivers of the economy, and we must put emphasis on them,” he said, although he wants the government to improve facilities so that more students can get quality education.
“KUCCPS needs to do away with Sh500 application fee for those joining colleges and universities as it discourages learners to apply because they see it as extra cost to their parents,” Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said.
According to KUCCPS, 276,163 TVET programme vacancies were provided for placement with 88,724 applicants, translating to only 32 per cent of the total capacity.
The government plans to have 1,540 vocational training centres across the country by 2022 with each of the 290 constituencies having a technical college.
The government has also identified more than 10 national polytechnics to be centres of excellence in a move that seeks to attract more students who usually prefer to join universities.
Figures released on Tuesday show that 54.2 per cent or 66,661 of the 122,831 students placed to degree courses will join science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes. In comparison, arts and humanities attracted 56,170 students or 45.7 per cent.
Some 2,632 candidates who scored C+ and above in the 2019 KCSE examination and qualified for placement to degree programmes opted for diploma courses in technical institutions.
Prof Magoha said the number of students preferring to join TVETs has been growing over time.
“In 2019, the number was 1,269. This is a clear indication that concerted efforts to improve enrolment in TVET courses are yielding fruits,” he said.
He admitted that low uptake of courses in TVET institutions has been because of negative attitude by parents and students.