"Haiya! You mean you joined the Polytechnique, they would ask sarcastically".
This is the world I grew in, where youth who opted, for many reasons, to join the Polytechnique would face. Nature was not on their side. They were labeled together with their parents as failures and people with poor academic capabilities who will never make it in life.
This negative perception has always been a big challenge affecting the now rebranded TVET sector. It has prevented many young people from developing a positive interest in joining TVET and getting a job in the same sector. But this narrative has changed, or it is changing if the numbers that the Education CS George Magoha gave us is something to go by. TVET is now one of the most lucrative education curricula for one to go through.
This, of course, has been due to the many interventions that the government has put in place from re-branding to funding. It has now gained popularity, and it is viewed as a tool for productivity enhancement and poverty reduction in Kenya.
In particular, TVET is listed as the main enabler of the president's Kenyatta big four Agenda: Food security, affordable housing, universal healthcare, and manufacturing. In that regard, the government of Kenya has invested heavily in the TVET sector and has already put in place measures to address issues of access, equity, transition rates, relevance, quality, and efficiency in the management of the TVET sector.
However, there is so much to be done to continually address the problems of perception and attitude that are still embedded in Kenyans' DNA. The government can just play a certain role, but what about us. What should we do?
The youth as the catalyst
Kenya is a very youthful country with a median age of 19 years, and so their perception and participation in all facets of the economy are quite essential. Such a young population provides the country with an opportunity for social change.
Initiatives such as organizing grassroots groups, carrying out awareness campaigns, mobilizations, etc. have always yielded positive outcomes as far as bringing change is concerned. This is what the TVET sector needs, and it needs the people who will benefit the most, its youth.
The youth must stop taking a back seat and be at the forefront in promoting TVET as a key ingredient for economic transformation and job creation.
Are the youth ready to be the catalyst? Only time will tell.