The Futility of Getting Quality Film Education in Kenya

‘’Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach’’.

Heavy expectations have been placed on the Kenyan film industry, and rightly so. It is expected to not only create employment to hundreds of thousands of people, but go beyond that to project Kenya to the entire world as a country that takes this art form seriously to compete with the top film industries in the world. To this end, a few government universities introduced film schools in 2008 which was seen as a welcome move due to the high cost of the few private film schools available. The film program was an immediate hit and the classes were soon overcrowded. Then the crisis hit. Kenya had no qualified film tutors according to the public universities’ HR policies which require lecturers to have at least a Masters degree.

By this time, most of the small number of Kenyan filmmakers had never attended any formal film school and the few who had studied film abroad were too busy with their own projects. Kenyatta University, the first to offer this program poached two lecturers from the literature department to start the film department. Later, two experienced tutors joined them. With the other universities also rolling out film courses, and thousands of students enrolling, a disturbing question arose; ‘who was teaching these students?’ The situation has not gotten any better seven years on. A few students immediately enrolled in postgraduate degrees after getting their undergraduate degrees and are now teaching in the universities never mind that what they know they got from mostly unqualified teachers.

It is a fact that almost all film lecturers in Kenya have zero to minimum practical experience outside of school in what they teach. They are scholars wallowing through a system that glorifies papers over substance. They might argue that you don’t have to practice anything to teach it, but hold up. This is art, and for thousands of years it is has been taught by the masters. In the US, these tutors do actually have quite a number of practical gigs in their resume. Why insist on master artists as tutors instead of ‘green’ scholars? It is because these scholars can only pretend teach, but an artist can teach and inspire. What is an artist without inspiration after all?

Luke warm, uninspired students are unleashed into a competitive market believing that their certificate is enough. Shock on them, no employer asks for it. A producer only wants to view a portfolio while due to the limited resources in school, the student doesn’t have anything worthy to show yet universities are chest-thumping about the superior quality of their alumni. The students that succeed outside would never come back to teach, those that find the going rough outside opt to go back to teaching. Seems this problem is going to be here for a while if the ministry of education doesn’t intervene.




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