Teacher’s art lessons inspire pupils

Joel Kariuki displays one of his paintings at his home in Ngangarithi, Nyeri on August 27, 2020.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

Armed with canvas, paint and brushes, the social studies teacher at King'ong'o Primary School gives the minors a chance to draw and paint what comes to their mind.

Kariuki, an award-winning artist, says besides helping the little ones concentrate and think critically, keeping them engaged has helped them keep off social ills and misdemeanours.

At the entrance of Joel Kariuki’s homestead in Classic estate, Nyeri County, assorted paints litter the neatly mowed lawn as children draw and paint.

The essence of art, they say, is to express oneself, and Kariuki found no better way to engage tens of schoolchildren currently at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, than nurture their talents.

Armed with canvas, paint and brushes, the social studies teacher at King'ong'o Primary School gives the minors a chance to draw and paint what comes to their mind.

Inspired by abstract pieces hanging on the walls, the motley group is asked to imitate his work, but make their own designs and shapes.

Kariuki, an award-winning artist, says besides helping the little ones concentrate and think critically, keeping them engaged has helped them keep off social ills and misdemeanours.

“Art is fun. It not only offers an opportunity for them to self-express but also promotes individualism,” he says, noting that there are children who have difficulties expressing themselves verbally.

After giving instructions, he sets a time for them to finish painting and drawing before he can reward by praise or correction.

Pencil artist

“The children love it. They love the challenge to do better every day and we always ensure we complete today’s task before we can take up another,” he says.

The teacher started the King’ong’o Art Club 10 years ago with the aim of letting children embrace art after realising that most schools no longer teach and nurture children talented in painting, drawing or music.

“Not all children are good in coursework and those that can do great pencil or paint craftwork should equally be supported without being relegated to a path of failure,” he says.

He was inspired by the support he received from his parents as a pencil artist, a talent that has seen him win accolades in performing and visual arts.

In 2014, he was recognised by the county government of Nyeri as the best teacher in recycling at Kiandu Primary school and in 2016, the Teachers Service Commission awarded him for writing a book on the importance of nurturing talents in youngsters.

Rehabilitate street children

“I believe that children should be let free to explore who they are through art as a way of encouraging them to do better in what they do best,” Kariuki observes.

The art enthusiast also uses his talent and resources to rehabilitate street children in Nyeri town, a programme that has seen 12 of them become fine artists.

Overall, his art club has rehabilitated 40 homeless children and integrated them into the society where they rely on art to sustain their livelihoods.

Some of his mentees drew the ‘Komesha Corona’ graffiti in Nyeri and Kirinyaga County while others are in music.

Six-year-old Maryanne Wanjiru, a beneficiary, says the painting lessons have helped her differentiate colors and master their names.

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