Without Secondary School Education, Geoffrey Cheruiyot follows TVET pathway to thrive in public service and academia  

By James Momanyi

It’s often thought that TVET training is only intended for trainees who are not ‘very bright’, or those who didn’t attain the qualifications to pursue university education.

But one man, Geoffry Kimutai Cheruiyot has shattered this conventional myth by skipping secondary education, and hence the much coveted KCSE certificate, and re-write the progression dream in the TVET academic pathway, which starts at any schooling level and end up at the academic acme of a doctorate degree.

The journey of Cheruiyot is like a fairy tale. Even in the appraisal of Cheruiyot, who is currently the Director of Public Works at Bomet County, his exciting excursion wasn’t planned at all.

Geoffry joined Kaboson Primary School in Chepalungu in 1986 and sat for his KCPE exam in 1993 and passed well by attaining 473 marks out the 700. He received two letters of admission to join Form One from Tenwek Boys and Koiwa High School. But his parents didn’t have money to take him to any of the two schools.

Instead he joined Emkwen Youth Polytechnic (now referred as Vocational Centres) and was enrolled in a Masonry Trade Test course.

“At that time I didn’t know what the course or training entailed. I just wanted to be a mason and maybe start constructing houses in the village and start making money,” he said.

A year later he joined Kiptere Youth Polytechnic in Kericho county to pursue an artisan course in Masonry, having done a trade test already and after completion was employed by Longisa High School as a Mason in 1995.

Geoffry worked for few months at the school and with the little saving he had made, he applied and was enrolled for a Craft Certificate in Masonry at Moi Institute of Technology (currently Rongo University) in September 1996.

After two years, he went back to Longisa High School and sought for attachment to teach Technical Drawing, Building and Construction as part of his course work.

“Ironically, one of my students in Form Four was my former classmate in primary! And there I was teaching him because I was assigned classes in Form Four because of my skills and experience.”

He passed his course and armed with a Craft Certificate he left for Nairobi to look for employment. Within weeks. landed at Donwoods Construction company and was recruited as a Mason earning Sh350 day, a lot of money then. He was later promoted to a foreman and was given an improved contract.

“I gained a lot of experience and in 2002 I applied for the position of foreman at Tiroto Construction Ltd and called for an interview. Surprisingly when they asked my salary expectation, I quoted Sh8,000, which was around Sh2,000 more from what I was earning then.”

“I got the job and at the end of the month, they sent Sh12,000 to my account. I was in shock because it was not what I expected and secondly, it was a lot of money then!”

But his burning desire for academic success was unending. In 2005, he applied and got admitted to Coast Institute of Technology to pursue a diploma in Building and graduated with a Diploma, the only one in his class that year.

He returned to the company in 2007 and was promoted to the position of project manager.

Five years later he was back in college, this time pursuing Bachelor’s degree in Quantity Survey at TUK university attending classes in the evening and weekends. His class was the first one to graduate under TUK.  In 2014, he graduated with a Second Upper degree.

After graduation, he decided to have a new challenge and joined Continental Quantity Surveyors for two years before he joined Milicons ltd in 2016 and left a year later to return to his former employer Continental QS where he stayed for a further two years until 2020.

During that period, he applied for a Master’s degree at JKUAT and was enrolled for a MSC in Construction Management in 2019. So far he has finished his coursework and his currently working on the thesis and hope to complete before the end of this year.

His star continued to shine when the Board of Registration for Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS) registered him after passing the accreditation exam.

Forward to last year. Bomet County advertised for various senior position including the post of Director of Public Works.

“I applied and was shortlisted. I came to realise later that the panelists wanted to know how I managed to advance in my academic pathway despite lacking a KCSE certificate. I shared my journey and proved to them I have the requisite qualifications, skills and knowledge for the job. I was offered the job, beating some equally strong competitors. I think the many years of experience I had accumulated and my sterling academic performance gave me an edge.”

Has his academic journey come to an end?

“Not at all! My academic destination is to reach the ‘no school ahead’ junction,” he says with a brimming face. “After I complete my MSC programme, I will apply for a PhD and work hard and complete it within the shortest possible time. My focus later in life is to be a researcher and consultant in the building and construction sector.”

The Director General TVET Authority Dr. Kipkirui Langat explains that the government has already put in place a clear and seamless transition between basic education and TVET training.

“The Kenya National Qualification Authority (KNQA) has already developed a coherent framework for qualification from Primary schooling up to doctorate degree level. The framework links together all qualifications in a highly visible, quality assured national system of educational recognition,” he explained.

“The structure, which also recognizes prior learning, has now made it possible for one to qualify for university education through the TVET pathway without necessary attaining the minimum university entry grade of C+.”

Geoffry advice to young people is to embrace TVET training because there is now an assured academic pathway and limitless employment opportunities for those who have the passion to excel in life.

“Young people can learn from my journey and understand that the TVET training is not meant for academic failures but rather another legal pathway to university and world of employment. In fact, as shown by my journey, TVET graduates get employment almost immediately because they get hands-on skills that are needed in the labour market,” he concludes.

The author is an Assistant Director Corporate Communication, TVET Authority

E-mail: james.momanyi@tveta.go.ke