70-year-old Mawego TTI made National Polytechnic  

Mawego Technical Training Institute

The main entrance to Mawego Technical Training Institute in Homa Bay County.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mawego is among the 12 colleges that were upgraded by President William Ruto, through the 2013 TVET Act.
  • The growth of Mawego TTI over the decades has had an impact on the economic and social status of the area.

From January 1, 2024, Mawego Technical Training Institute (TTI) becomes Mawego National Polytechnic.

The institution was elevated by the Ministry of Education through the Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) early last year.

With the elevation, Mawego National Polytechnic in Rachuonyo North sub-county, Homa Bay County, will now offer more courses than it did.

The management of Mawego Polytechnic says the institution will be on the frontline in addressing the needs of communities in Homa Bay and beyond.

The management says it is waiting for gazettement of the TTI to confirm the elevation.

Mawego is among the 12 colleges that were upgraded by President William Ruto, through the 2013 TVET Act, to national polytechnics. 

The President said the elevation would improve and broaden higher education.

The others are Maasai Technical Training Institute, Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology, Coast Institute of Technology, Tseikuru Technical and Training College and Sang’alo Institute of Science and Technology.

The list also has Bureti Technical Vocational College, Jeremiah Nyagah Technical Training Institute and Baringo Technical Training Institute.

According to Mawego TTI Deputy Principal Leah Otieno, the elevation would enable the institution to work with different universities in offering degrees in technology.

“As a national polytechnic, Mawego will also offer courses based on our curriculum. The elevation was long due as we are the oldest higher education institution in Homa Bay County,” she says.

Mawego TTI has offered technical courses that have enabled some of its former students prosper in different fields.

Among the prominent personalities who went through the institution is the immediate former Homa Bay governor Cyprian Awiti, Mawego TTI’s Board of Directors Chairman Alex Kazongo, Prof Bernard Aduda of Egerton University and Kenya Diaspora Alliance Chairman Shem Ochuodho. 

Mr Awiti’s home is near the institution. 

The former students have formed an association, discussing issues affecting Mawego Polytechnic in their Whatsapp group.

Some of their resolutions are presented to Mawego Principal John Abuto, Ms Otieno and the Board of Directors.

Mr Kazongo was a student at Mawego when it was still a national school. 

“I can only describe it as one of the most successful institutions in Nyanza region. With the elevation, Mawego Polytechnic will continue producing people who will bring great changes to the Kenyan society,” he says.

Dr Ochuodho trained for masonry, carpentry, metal work and electrical works while at Mawego.

He says past national governments did not consider technical training as an avenue for creating jobs, neglecting such institutions and their graduates. 

“Technical training was associated with academic failure. Very few people thought graduates of such colleges could excel in life. Being admitted to university for a degree course was everything,” the Kenya Diaspora Alliance boss says. 

Dr Ochuodho adds that many developed countries promote technical training, citing the southeast Asian economic tigers, Europe and North America. 

“These developed countries take their best brains for technical training rather than university degree programmes. Kenya’s two levels of government should  put more emphasis on technical and vocational training. These institutes need more manpower and equipment,” Dr Ochuodho says.

Mawego trainees interviewed by Higher Education say the old students remain their role models. 

Emaculate Otieno, a student of  Social Work and Community Development, says she joined the institution on learning of the many prominent personalities it has produced over the years. 

She comes from Oyugis, a town that plays host to Sikri Technical and Vocational Training Institute, but chose to enrol at Mawego.

“Mawego had always been my dream institution of higher learning even during my primary and secondary school years,” she says. 

“It provides programmes that align with many of us. I have witnessed many former students grow socially, academically and economically. Some have even risen to become respected leaders in Kenya and abroad,” she says.

TVET continues to be a catalyst for social-economic development in Kenya. 

The growth of Mawego TTI over the decades has had an impact on the economic and social status of the area.

Lida township residents are now using some of their lands to put up hostels for the growing number of students. With the elevation of Mawego, the number is expected to grow even more. 

Fewer than 700 students are accommodated at the institution’s hostel. The rest have to look for shelter elsewhere.

Ms Salome Bonyo is among the Lida locals who have built hostels. She can host 10 students, each paying Sh5,500 per term (three months). Her neighbour charges Sh7,500 for the same period.

Lida market

Lida market in Rachuonyo North Sub-county.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

“Building rental houses has become more profitable than farming. Many people with land have ventured into real estate because of this training institute. Crops can fail because of bad weather, but students will always be around looking for places to stay,” Ms Bonyo says.

Other businesses have opened in Lida, including barber shops, salons, gyms, food kiosks and medical clinics.
Some businesspeople have opened entertainment joints targeting students.

Outside Mawego Polytechnic is a cyber cafe belonging to Mr Wilson Okongo. Students and staff can get services like applications for funding from the Higher Education Loans Board and Kenya Revenue Authority personal identity numbers. He also sells movies to students.

“Some come to my shop in the evening and during weekends to play video games. Without them, I would not make ends meet,” Mr Okongo says.

Locals believe the elevation of the TTI will make the area grow.

The cost of land in Lida and surrounding areas has gone up in recent years.

Mr Ronald Juma, who grew up in Lida, says he witnessed Mawego TTI transform his village into a township.

“Some people who could not cope with the transformation and sold their land to settle elsewhere,” Mr Juma says. 

A plot measuring 100x50ft  around the institution goes for up to Sh700,000.

“Some of the places that were covered with bushes 10 years ago and would be sold at less than Sh100,000 now have rental property. The cost of land keeps rising,” Mr Juma says.

Relying on Mawego Polytechnic learners as a customer base, however, has its disadvantages too. Many businesses close when students are on recess.

Some entrepreneurs, however, continue operating even when there are very few people to serve. Among them is Brian Amollo, a barber.

When students are around, Mr Amollo serves at least 30 people a day. To have a haircut, one pays Sh50. 
When learners are on holiday, the number of daily customers drops to five or less.

Mawego started as a trade school in 1952. It was established by the Outreach Brothers of the Netherlands.

It offered artisan masonry, leather work, tailoring, carpentry and other training. Mawego also had a primary school section.

In 1967, the government took over the management of Mawego, making it a national technical secondary school.

It grew over the years to its current level, offering programmes in building and construction, civil and mechanical engineering food and beverage, information technology, agriculture, banking and finance, social work, business management, fashion and design and many others. 

The institute also has a driving school. 

The deputy principal says Mawego TTI has 178 instructors and at least 84 non-teaching staff. The number is expected to grow with the elevation to a polytechnic.

“The employees attend to the more than 6,000 students,” she says.

Mawego Technical Training Institute

Classrooms and workshops at Mawego Technical Training Institute in Rachuonyo North, Homa Bay County.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

The success of the institution has enabled it to introduce courses in medical and pharmaceutical technology, which will begin in January. It has also introduced programmes in aquaculture.

“The TVET Directorate ranked us the best in academic performance, with a score of 71 per cent. Our engineering and electrical works trainees are sought-after countrywide,” Ms Otieno says. 

“The best plumbers in Kenya trained here.”

According to the deputy principal, the management of Mawego Polytechnic wants to introduce a dual training model.

This entails students spending half of their time in class and the other half in the field, applying  what they have been taught.

She says employers prefer students who have undergone such training as opposed to those coming straight from university. 

“We are known for offering practical skills and solutions that can be applied in real life situations. By the time our students graduate, they are fully prepared for the job market,” Ms Otieno says.

A Mawego Polytechnic student can be self-sponsored. He or she can also seek support from the government through the new funding model.

A number of learners have their fees paid by agencies like the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), banks and Non-Government Organisations. 

The deputy head says some trainees are supported by their local lawmakers.

“The fee for others is paid by the National Youth Service. The KCB Group also has a student support scheme known as Tujiajiri,” she says.

Mawego TTI students are normally taken through practical lessons in laboratories and workshops.

For agriculture trainees, trips to mechanised farms make them acquainted with skills they need to use in addressing food insecurity.

“There are plans to introduce more competitive and marketable courses to align with the changing times and trends,” Ms Otieno says.

Having a big population of students and workers stretches available resources. The greatest challenge Mawego Polytechnic faces is water shortage.

What the Homa Bay Water and Sanitation Company supplies is not enough for the polytechnic fraternity. To address this problem, the institution has sunk a borehole.

With continued support from the national government, the students, workers and Board of Directors hope the water and other challenges will be addressed. Mawego TTI held its fifth graduation ceremony in February.