Annual drama festival begins amid ranking dilemma

Participants at the one-day conference held in Nakuru to discuss and strategise for this year's annual Kenya Schools and colleges Drama Festival. [Photo: George Orido/Standard]

The annual Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival set for this school term is grappling with the challenge of whether to rank or not, in an attempt to stay in line with the Ministry of Education’s decision not to rank students based on their performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam early this month.

Speaking during the Cultural and Creative Artistes Association (CCAWA) conference in Nakuru last Saturday, the national chairman of the festival Chokera Kahora said his committee was yet to determine on what basis they will adjudicate performances and allow them graduate from one stage to the next.

“Since the order not to rank pupils in the exams has taken effect, it will be in order for us to follow suit,” he told a group of drama teachers during a one-day induction workshop at the Nakuru Players Theatre.

The more than 100 drama teachers were drawn from across the country and are a vital input in the directing and choreography of plays, dances, and verses at the annual fete to be held at the national level this year in Nakuru from April 6 to 18.

Mercernaries for hire

Mr Chokera encouraged the teachers to get professional and shed the tag of mercenaries as they are usually referred to at the festival.

He noted isolated cases where a few of the teachers who come in to help had given the group a bad name, citing cases of indecent exposure, disregard for protocol and sleaze with the minors they are entrusted to take care of.

Mr Chokera went ahead to announce that the committee had banned a number of the trainers, among them one who is alleged to have run away with one of the university’s monies amounting to Sh400,000 after promising to help with producing a film for the festival.

Another banned individual is a trainer who last year withheld a school’s costumes even as the helpless girls, from an institution in the Lake region, were being called to perform at the Kagumo Teachers College Hall.

“The trainer had claimed that the school had not settled all his dues and therefore could not let the girls perform in the costumes. The same individual has gone around schools promising scholarships to young talented yet unsuspecting students after duping parents into parting with up to Sh3,500 per student, across the country,” he said, adding the individual was actually arrested in Embu after facing the wrath of students and parents.

CCAWA chairman Wella Calvin Munala lauded the members who have registered with the association formed two years ago for the professional way they conducted themselves and their commitment to development of theatre in schools and colleges.

“Our objective is to inject professional conduct among our members who first and foremost are subjected to thorough vetting,” he said.

Mr Munala explained that other than Child Psychology, members were trained on interpersonal communication as well as ethics so as to keep trainers above board.

Soaring heights

His deputy Lilian Madigo of Nakuru Lions Academy noted that the CCAWA membership was committed to the development of both the child and the trainers so that standards at the fete can soar by the years.

National Executive member Wycliffe Wafula told the meeting that the ministry needed the trainers and it was mutually beneficial that a structured engagement with the ministry was enhanced.

“You were our products and we cannot turn against you all of a sudden,” he said as he encouraged playwrights among them to jealously guard their intellectual property rights by only appending names of true authors to the scripts.

This was in reaction to concerns that many Teachers Service Commission teachers who double as drama club patrons in schools hardly get involved in the scripts development yet their names appear as authors of the same.

CCAWA was formed after the then Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education Prof George Godia banned all non-TSC trainers of drama following the ban of Butere Girls High School play, Shackles of Doom in 2013.

Festival Executive Secretary Sirengo Khaemba had confirmed the ban only for High Court Judge David Majanja to overturn the decision following a successful petition by activist and playwright Okiya Okoiti Omtatah.

During the whole fiasco trainer Cleophas Malalah became the face of the school appearing on TV and newspaper interviews.

Cleophas Malalah has since become the MCA for a ward in Shinyalu and was recently ousted as the Kakamega County Deputy Speaker.

Last year he funded his village school, Mahakalio primary, who emerged top at the national festival in Nyeri last year.

Mr Sirengo announced that the annual drama teachers’ workshop will be held from this Monday at Kabarnet GTI with the theme Enhancing our Social Responsibility for National Development.