19 March 2017

Kenya: Nurturing a Talent-Based Education Vital

opinion

The ongoing Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival is a wake-up call to institutions that have been snubbing non-academic talent.

The proposed school curriculum places talent as a priority alongside academics and technology.

While arts, culture and sports have always been regarded as extra-curricular activities, in the new curriculum they have the same status as academic subjects, and will be part of the syllabus.

School and college principals who have been neglecting talent-based activities will have to play catch-up to those who have been participating in the annual drama and music festivals.

Those who have been participating will have an advantage as they will easily understand the content of the syllabus.

In the new set-up, educational institutions will be offering talent, academic and technology-based activities as subjects.

This means that one can study the arts, such as drama, music, poetry, filmmaking and fine arts and pursue these courses at university.

It is good news for talented students. Many school administrators and even some parents have viewed arts and sports as distractions to academic excellence and a waste of money and time.

The new curriculum, however, gives them the status to be taught alongside traditional classroom subjects.

The talent-based courses will expand, meaning that one can go for subjects one is talented in.

Some institutions of higher learning seem to have foreseen this and have full-fledged departments of arts, music and filmmaking.

They include Kenyatta University and Mount Kenya University Institute of film and the Performing Arts, the University of Nairobi, and Moi University, all of which have for a long time been teaching the arts.

Of course, the Ministry of Education and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development will have to generate course content for the arts and technical subjects.

This should give no headache since there are many teachers and trainers who have been offering practical training in schools, tertiary institutions and universities.

ARTS AFICIONADOS

There are teachers who have been involved in the Kenya drama and music festivals for decades and they should be involved in creating course material.

They have experience in script writing, directing, production and choreography and other aspects of the arts and they will offer vital tips in creating suitable course content.

They include Oliver Minishi, who has been producing award-winning drama with Kakamega High School for a long time, as well as Cathrine Irungu (formerly of Karima High School and now the principal of Alliance Girls High School).

Other experienced drama producers include Joseph Murungu of Premier Academy, who has worked on drama projects with many schools, Charity Muraguri of Thogoto Teachers Training College, Michael Kiguta of Menengai High School and Esther Mbuga, the principal of Kangubiri Girls, to name but a few.

They are all leading their respective institutions in the ongoing drama festival, which culminated in the nationals being held in Kisumu from Saturday.

The theme of this year's festival is "Enhancing national values for national development" and it places an emphasis on recognising talent and developing it to create more jobs.

Though drama and music have for long not been viewed as careers by many, events of recent years have shown that people can live off the arts.

The drama festival has led to the discovery and nurturing of acting and music talent. More future artistes will benefit from the new curriculum.

Mr Njagi is a Nation arts and culture writer. [email protected]

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