Though in the 2013-17 CIDP the county government had committed to set up a vocational training facility in every sub-county in Nakuru county, existing facilities were in poor condition. For a long time, these facilities experienced challenges that have hampered the delivery of vocational training to youth in Nakuru County. These challenges include inadequate staffing, equipment, and spacing. During focus group discussions, students and community members raised concerns over students in polytechnics being required to wear uniforms that they said resembled that of high school students.
As a result, the quality of training in the facilities within has been poor and most youths have lost interest in enrolling for vocational courses. For many youths, vocational facilities are synonymous with failure. Those who opt to acquire vocational skills prefer to do so through apprenticeships as opposed to enrolment in polytechnics. Due to this perception, low enrolment characterizes many vocational training facilities.
Social Audit Process
With funding from URAIA Trust, CTL supported citizens in three sub-counties to monitor the delivery of vocational training services using social audits in 4 facilities namely Nakuru Polytechnic in Nakuru Town East, Njoro Polytechnic in Njoro Sub-county, Rongai Polytechnic and Kware Kapkwen polytechnic in Rongai Sub-county. A team of 17 social auditors was supported to gather information relating to infrastructure, equipping, and staffing of the polytechnics. With CTL’s support, the social auditors subjected information gathered to validation by citizens, management of the audited facilities, and selected government representatives in the respective sub-counties.
The social audit exercise revealed that vocational training facilities were grappling with inadequate infrastructure, poor condition of existing facilities, inadequate and demotivated staff, inadequate, non-functional, and in some instances, obsolete equipment. The findings of the social audit process were shared with duty bearers in the education sector during a public engagement forum held on 11th November 2017 The engagement forum was attended by representatives from the Directorate of vocational training, county youth office, principals and board members from social audited facilities, and citizens.
As a result of the social accountability work undertaken in polytechnics, several improvements have been made. In Nakuru Polytechnic, construction of a storey building that had stalled for over two months resumed. The new building was meant to house additional classrooms and workshops. The management of the facility adopted a new uniform design and had new uniforms that students are now proud of making.
At the time of the social audit, boarding students were using a makeshift bathroom whose condition was poor, having no doors and roof. The computer lab had not been set up and there were 12 old non-functional computers stacked together on a table in the middle of the room. In the fashion and design department, only 5 sewing machines out of the 25 available were working. This forced students to take turns in using sewing machines during practicals and examinations.
Though the facility is yet to construct new bathrooms after the social audit exercise, the makeshift ones have been improved and have new doors and roof installed. The institution has since set up work stations in the computer lab and the old computers with 11 new ones. Further, the management in the facility has services all the 25 sewing machines in the fashion and design department and students no longer have to queue waiting to access machines in turns.
Mr. Solomon Muli the principal in Nakuru Polytechnic says, “The positive changes taking place in this polytechnic have made it more appealing to the youth. We have had more students enrolling and we are pleased that youth who dropped out of school for various reasons will make something out of themselves”.
In Kware Kapkwen, students who had enrolled for welding courses could not take practical lessons because the two-phase electricity grid connection in the facility could not support the welding machine that had been designed to use a triple-phase power connection. After the social audit, the institution had the welding machine adjusted to use a two-phase connection, enabling students to take practical lessons. The facility has also acquired 15 additional computers for use by students in the computer lab.
According to Vincent Tanui, a student in Kware Kapkwen, these improvements have enhanced the quality of training services students receive in the polytechnic.
“The skills we are getting in our school have improved. I was able to use a welding machine in December 2017 since I joined the welding class in August 2017. For a course like mine, practicals are important because they allow us to get a feel of the equipment and know-how to control it. I am starting to feel more confident and I will be able to start my own business after I complete this course,” he says.
One of the greatest lessons we have learned through the social audit process is the importance of liaising with county officials and administrators in target facilities. This enhances ownership of the findings, gives credibility to the process, making it easy for them to give their input without fear that such information could be used against them.