“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world,” Harriet Tubman.
These words really ring true, especially for the 20-year-old Constance Mghoi who is currently attending Kishushe Vocational Training Centre in Taita Taveta County.
Mghoi enrolled for training and started attending classes at VTC in 2020 and has since honed her skills in tailoring.
“After finishing my schoolwork, I work on my private jobs which earn me some money to buy personal effects as well as pay for my course work. Sometimes I even gift my mother with some tailor-made ‘kitenge’ fits,” she proudly told me recently when I visited the area
She narrated how her daily routine begins with attending school in the morning before finishing off the day with tailoring work for some of her clients. But she is not alone as we continue our conversation. A baby aged four soon joined us. She immediately informs me she is her little sister.
Constance Mghoi during her practical lesson. Mercy Mzae, her instructor looks on.
Photo by Beth Nyaga
With a million questions in my mind, I ask her why she has to tag her little sister along as she undertakes her assignments and how she manages to concentrate in class.
“Well, I have no choice but to bring her along with me. My mother has to also go to work so I cannot leave a four-year-old by herself,” she explains.
Mghoi says her mother was unable to send her to college because her two elder siblings had already enrolled. She was supposed to wait until her siblings completed their tertiary education. This is where the decision to join Kishushe Vocational Training Centre was birthed.
A learner helps take care of Mhoi’s sister during a session Photo By Beth Nyaga
I visited the Centre and James Kombo, the Manager, speaks of the changing fortunes ever since the installation of solar panels at the centre in 2021. The Vocational college had benefitted from a green energy project undertaken by the World Wide Fund for Nature – Kenya (WWF-Kenya) and funded by BMZ German Federal Ministry for Economic Development.
The project entailed installing 70 high-voltage solar panels with a capacity to generate power equivalent to a three-phase electricity connection. And that was not all as there was the need to set up a power room with 100 batteries for the purposes of power storage.
70 high-voltage solar panels with a capacity to generate power equivalent to a three-phase electricity connection
Photo By Beth Nyaga
The Centre is now operational and the manager disclosed that it has been a blessing to the community, especially to the girls from the vicinity. Kombo says some of them are young mothers but the centre gives them an opportunity to rebuild their lives. In fact, it allows them to attend school alongside the young ones.
“At the centre, we provide mattresses and a play area for children who attend the VTC with their mothers, we also feed them. This encourages the young mothers by showing them that they can still fend for their family as they still eke a living,” he said.
Kombo also explains that tailoring isn’t the only course undertaken in the VTC, especially after the solarization of the facility. He adds that the next phase is on diversification and introduction of power-intensive courses which are in high demand. They include electrical, wiring, welding and fabrication, food processing, and beauty therapy.
James Kombo, Kishushe Vocational Training Centre manager looks on as one of the learners’ irons
Photo By Beth Nyaga
For many years, Kishushe residents have also been confronted by perennial human-wildlife conflicts especially resulting from invasions by animals like elephants and hyenas from Tsavo National Park and nearby conservancies.
Kombo however says the installation of solar has enabled the centre and the community to put up security lights and fences that have deterred wild animals from invading the villages with reckless abandon.
“Learners who extend their studies well into the night can now be safe within the premises as it is well lit. Security in the area has also improved because of the lighting,” he said.
On her part, Mercy Mzae, a hairdressing instructor, who has been in the centre since its inception in 2019, says that the change after the ‘solarization’ of the centre was drastic.
Mzae explains that the students, most of whom have already graduated, had to study under very harsh conditions.
“Hairdressing equipment and dressmaking machines were lying idle in the store. Students had to carry their own charcoal for the iron boxes, even as they sat for their National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) examinations, they did so without prior experience due to lack of practicals,” she lamented.
A learner making use of the electric sewing machine.
Photo By Beth Nyaga
She however says that the number of students since solarization has gradually peaked as they can now practice well before their exams. In addition, the instructor says the centre can fairly compete with other institutions.
“The first batch of 17 students recently sat for their NITA examinations and I am proud to say that they all passed and graduated to the next level,” she disclosed.
The members of the community are also benefitting from the solarization of the centre given that they can now seek the services of the trained students. Salon services, as well as tailoring services, are in great demand.
A sample of tailoring work done by Kishushe learners
Photo By Beth Nyaga
The learners, in the meantime, have found meaning in life and are encouraged to embrace an upgrade of their entrepreneurship skills.
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