Ministry ought to hasten return of drama festivals

Moi Girls Nairobi

Moi Girls Nairobi High School students present a cultural dance during a past edition of the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival at Kibabii University Bungoma.

Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers have been making preparationTo avoid crowding, students performing in the festival can go to the venue, take to the stage and be driven back to their schools or homes s, anticipating its resumption.
  • Drama teachers have been trained in real and virtual workshops on how to cope with circumstances of the day.

Traditionally held in first term, the annual Kenya National Drama and Film Festival involves educational institutions and has, for 61 years, been the largest avenue of exposing artistic talent.

For a long time pushed to the periphery of the curricula of schools and colleges, it is not only an effective tool to implement the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) but also as recreation for students bearing the strain of the transition.

Starting at the zonal level to the county, regional and, finally, national levels, it features performances of plays, films, cultural and modern dances, oral narratives, poetry, film and the spoken word. 

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers have been making preparations, anticipating its resumption. Drama teachers have been trained in real and virtual workshops on how to cope with circumstances of the day. This includes how they can still take students to the stage while observing Covid-19 health protocols like distancing. They have, in turn, trained their students.

Drama is one of the most under-exploited talents in learning institutions. Many higher education programmes don’t offer related courses. Yet it helps students to gain self-confidence and articulate themselves, vital life values. A money spinner in developed countries, it has also proved to be a good income earner in Kenya over the past few decades. 

Serious business

It does not eat into the time for academics. Stage plays are not about playing games; they are serious business. Drama can be done at weekends without interfering with classwork. It is educative and entertaining, which helps the students to relax and complements classwork since the learners are more receptive after recreating with something they enjoy.

To avoid crowding, students performing in the festival can go to the venue, take to the stage and be driven back to their schools or homes and await the results. In the traditional format, students spent the entire period of the national festival in accommodation ‘villages’  (mostly other learning institutions) near the venue. This can be changed for safety.

CBC is unique in its approach as it lays emphasis on skills students learn rather than the time spent in the classroom seeking to earn the highest marks possible. Not all students can excel in classroom examinations and that there are many untapped talents that can be nurtured to make students lead meaningful lives and earn a livelihood. 

For a long time, many schools and parents have wrongly viewed drama as a distraction to ‘real’ education and deliberately failed to support students who are interested or talented in it.

However, contrary to popular belief that white-collar jobs are the best cause to pursue, although only a small portion of graduates can fit in this demographic, drama and the arts offer opportunities that are equally or more rewarding (financially and in job satisfaction).

The Ministry of Education should hasten the return of the drama and film festival.

Mr Njagi is an arts and culture reporter for the ‘Daily Nation’. [email protected]

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