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Man teaches students the art of weaving

 Johnson Paul Mathenge. He teaches weaving at Tetu Technical Training Institute. [Mose Sammy, Standard] 

Johnson Paul Mathenge, 70, is training students how to weave on a unique wooden loom machine that he built.

He joined lecturers at Tetu Technical and Vocational Training Institute in October last year to train the learners.

Mathenge said he was offering practical lessons to fashion and design students using his machine.

The loom machine is made of wood and resembles the machines that the students will use in the textile industry.

Mathenge explained that basic parts of the loom machine include a head also known as a heddle that holds the yarns in place. It also helps in shed formation and is used for determining the wrap thread destiny in the fabric.

“A loom machine is sensitive and requires patience and concentration to work with the thread,” he said.

He said he developed passion in weaving in 1970 after he was sponsored by the PCEA church to pursue a course in weaving in Nairobi under a programme organised by the National Council of Churches of Kenya with trainers from Germany.

“I took a two-year course in weaving in Nairobi and learnt how to weave and to make a loom using readily available materials including wood,” he said.

Through the course, he learnt how to assemble the machine.

“With all the raw materials, it takes two months to assemble the loom machine which costs more than Sh200,000,” he said.

The trainer desires to pass his experience of more than 48 years to the young generation to empower and make them self-reliant.

Mathenge said weaving is a critical course that can help meet the high demand for products ranging from Kikoi to bed covers and can offer employment to youth.

He noted that with the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), students can learn weaving at a tender age and specialise in the skill in technical institutions under Competence Based Education and Training (CBET).

“The loom machine is an ancient weaving machine with great art. I would encourage the youth to embrace this skill so that even when I am gone, my skills can help others. I don’t want to leave a gap,” he said.

Mathenge said youth in Nyeri County can acquire the skills and produce products to create employment.

He disclosed that his son, Joshua Wanyiri has been weaving but would need to sharpen his skills.

Jamelick Murimi, a trainer in the fashion and design department appreciated Mathenge's knowledge saying his homemade loom has given the students exposure.

“His loom has given the students and our institution exposure, we used to send them to Thika Textiles to see the machines and learn about them in preparation for the job market,” Murimi said.

Tetu Technical and Vocational College principal Catherine Gikonyo said that Mathenge’s practical lessons will give students exposure before they leave for attachment.

“According to the Ministry of Education, the TVET institution is based on the CBET curriculum and Mathenge’s machine offers a practical class,” she said.

Gikonyo was optimistic that Mathenge's lessons could bridge the knowledge and skills gap.

“I value the wisdom and knowledge from the elder's training. He will assist learners and cut the expenses of sending them to industries for practical lessons,” she said.

Monicah Njeri, a student in weaving class said she is excited to gain exposure by using the loom machine.

“I only saw this loom machine on the internet but now I can experience a practical class,” she said.

Maurine Atieno, another student said that she is able to relate the theory taught in class and now the practical lesson from the trainer.

“I am glad that this school brought such an experienced trainer who gave me exposure and also offers guidance and counselling while training,” Atieno said.

Mary Mwihaki, a student, was confident that the exposure would help her a great deal in achieving her goal.

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