A design approach to facilitating the village polytechnic ideology in Kenya
Mwendwa, Suki Kaloo kathuka
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The Village Polytechnic Programme (VPP) in Kenya, one of the non-formal educational programmes designed to solve problems of illiteracy, unemployment, and rural development, has been in existe,,nce since 1966. The programme's focus is on primary school leavers (graduates) who were unable to pursue a higher education and had ,no skills to sustain themselves. The basis of the ideology of the programme is self-reliance. Self reliance is achieved,through the trainees' developing skills which are useful and applicable to their communities. Skills required for the development of one community may differ from those required by another. To encourage local development, the VPP has to be flexible and adaptable to local situations. The potential of the Village Polytechnic (VP) ideology has not been fully realised. Part of the problem is in how VPs are perceived. The tendency is for communities to view the VP as a school for formal education. The misconception , of the VP as a formal school interferes with the ideology's objectives. It is suggested in this study that the misconception of the VP is due in part to the inability of the VP to present an image consistent with its own ideology and objectives. This misconception of the VP may be partly resolved through the facility and its design considered here in the broad sense, with emphasis placed on who the design is made for as well as on how the facility is designed. Conventional architectural design and planning involves one person making all decisions regarding a design. This design approach is not workable with VPs, as their philosophy of self reliance is to allow for wide participation by members of the society. Therefore, designing for the VPP requires a style and approach that complement the development of the VP. This study employs anthropological, cultural, and historical concepts to develop an appropriate design for the VP. Alexander's Pattern Language concept is used to develop criteria which relate the VP ideology, the programme, and the facility. These criteria are illustrated hypothetically by applying them to a Village PolyteChnic in Ukambani, a region in Kenya. The design approach described in this study is yet to be tested in an actual rural community within Kenya. It appears to be an approach which will result in more appropriate facilities hopefully enabling the VPP to achieve its ideals and Objectives within each community.