Villagers cherish colonial jail turned into technical institute - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Villagers cherish colonial jail turned into technical institute


A few old people in Kigumo, Murang’a County, remember how colonial officials used to frog-march Mau Mau freedom fighters to the local jail to start their prison terms after being convicted of “terror-like” activities.

Mzee Njaramba Mbiu, 86, whose home neighbours the institution, recalls how every time he heard gunshots from the prison, he would know either there was a raid by Mau Mau fighters trying to free their comrades, or, there was an attempt by the inmates to escape.

“The facility is today 99 years old since it was built in 1901 as a jail for offenders. But it became a Mau Mau specialised jail in 1922 and was officially closed in 1964, a year after Kenya attained independence,” says Kigumo Deputy County Commissioner Margaret Maina.

The place was in 1993 condemned as unfit for human habitation owing to its age and structural condition.

“But area residents would hear none of it. They opposed any move to demolish the structures in the compound, saying they had to be preserved as an important phase of their history,” she adds.

A resolution by area residents

To that end, a resolution by area residents was arrived at in 1994 that the institution be transformed into a youth empowerment centre as a monument of the freedom struggles that sought to empower locals to be truly independent. It is now the Kigumo Vocational Education Training Institute.

Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia, whose village neighbours the institute, says he is soliciting funds to rehabilitate it.

“We have a tentative budget of Sh50 million needed for Phase One of the rehabilitation drive that will see us establish safe laboratories and an administration block. For total overhaul of the place to ensure its status matches its rich history, we need at least Sh120 million,” he adds.

Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

The manager, Mr John Mbote.

While the institute is under the Murang’a County Government, courses offered there are funded by the national government.

“We have to strike a collaboration formula on how to share out the bill. But I have committed myself to request the Presidential Service Delivery Unit to assist us with some cash … President Uhuru Kenyatta is very passionate on matters that seek to safeguard self-rule history since his father, as the founding father of the nation was involved in the freedom fight,” says Mr Kinuthia.

He has also linked the institute with the Directorate of Vocational Education Training so that efforts can be made to increase subsidy allocation for its courses.

“The cash is remitted depending on the number of trainees. For instance, the directorate sends Sh15,000 per trainee … to mean, the higher the intake, the higher the cash to be received. It is for that reason that we are now seeking the assistance of area administrators to give us more numbers as intake so that we can increase funding.”

Currently, the school offers hairdressing, building, tailoring and carpentry courses.

The manager, Mr John Mbote, says the most urgent courses to align it with modern economic trends are information technology, plumbing, motor vehicle engineering, and electrical engineering, as well as painting.

Sits on five acres

The institute sits on five acres of land capable of hosting a modern training college that can pursue partnerships with technical universities.

“This is a facility so much loved by our neighbours since it reminds them that the struggles for self-rule were real. They feel proud to be associated with a place that used to be a jail for their freedom fighters and they feel equally proud that their children can today walk into it and for free and be empowered with technical abilities to eke out a living,” says Mr Kinuthia.

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