by Christine Lagat and Wang Xiaopeng
NAIROBI, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Esther Apetet's childhood dream was fulfilled last month when she secured an admission at Kenya Technical Trainers College (KTTC) to pursue a diploma in mechanical engineering.
Defying stereotypes to enroll in a discipline that has for decades been shunned by Kenyan girls, the 19-year-old college student is determined to succeed and leave behind a legacy worth emulating.
Apetet's institution was a beneficiary of several computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines supplied by China's AVIC International Holding Corporation in July as part of its ambitious goal to help transform vocational training in Kenya.
During an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday at her vocational training center located on the outskirts of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, Apetet hailed the state-of-the-art machines, saying they had inspired her to pursue engineering with vigor.
"I would like to thank Chinese companies for providing machines that are easier to use and I look forward to acquiring technical skills that will enable me to become self-employed in future," said Apetet, who majors in automotive engineering.
She noted that automated milling machines supplied by the Chinese company were a departure from their manual counterparts in terms of efficiency and speed.
"These machines look modern and upgraded. They are computerized and easier to operate unlike the manual ones. I expect to learn how to use the machines within a short period," Apetet told Xinhua.
Collins Muriithi, her 19-year-old schoolmate, was equally excited by the prospect of learning how to operate the computerized milling machines that have elevated the prestige of his vocational training institution.
"We thank the Chinese company for equipping these modern machines that are easier to operate by both students and tutors," said Muriithi.
He is pursuing a diploma in mechanical engineering and production option, looking forward to acquiring practical skills that will enable him to stand out in the job market.
Kenya Technical Trainers College, one of the oldest vocational training centers in the country, is set to transform teaching of engineering disciplines.
Hilda Omwoyo, deputy principal in charge of academic affairs at KTTC, said the conventional and automated milling machines provided by the Chinese firm would boost skills acquisition and employability among young learners.
"The equipment will improve standards in technical and vocational training in this institution. They will boost industrial skills of trainees and tutors," said Omwoyo.
She added the modern machines and equipment would help bridge skills gap that is responsible for high youth unemployment in Kenya.
AVIC International signed with Kenya's Ministry of Education in 2010 an agreement worth about 30 million U.S. dollars on the phase I of Kenya-China project on the establishment of technical and vocational laboratories in Kenya.
The Chinese company helped equip 10 vocational and technical institutions in the country and provide solutions on areas including curriculum content and instructor training. About 15,000 Kenyans were trained in the phase I of the project.
In 2013, the company inked the agreement on the phase II of the project, which is valued about 158 million dollars and will equip a total of 134 institutions of technical and vocational education and training across the county.
According to the company, about 1,500 teachers and some 150,000 students will be trained in phase II, which is scheduled to end in 2020.
Zhao Leilei, a manager in charge of the program, said the rest of the equipment in the phase II of the project will be handed over to the Kenyan institutions by the end of 2018.
In addition to equipping these institutions, the company also sponsored Kenyan engineering students to pursue post-graduate degrees in China. Likewise, the Chinese firm has been providing internship opportunities to Kenyan youth pursuing technical courses in universities and mid-level colleges.
According to Zhao, the company has signed similar agreements on vocational training with other African countries including Uganda, Zambia and Ghana.
Joseph Nyakundi, a 23-year-old former cleaner, is currently stationed at Technical University of Kenya's revamped workshop, where he operates with ease the automated machines provided by the company. The university is among the first Kenyan institutions to receive the Chinese machines in 2012.
Nyakundi participated in the first edition of Africa Tech Challenge (ATC) in 2014, which was sponsored by AVIC International. The event provided him a platform to hone his skills in operating industrial machines.
"Am currently able to operate a wide range of computerized machines to produce metal parts. The machines supplied by the Chinese company are efficient and easy to use by ordinary learners," said Nyakundi.
He looks forward to becoming an accomplished machine operator and be a part and parcel of Kenya's industrial transformation.
Joseph Barasa, a mechanical engineering graduate in his early 30s, had accomplished an unusual feat by assembling a car at the university's workshop, using state-of-the-art machines provided by the company.
Barasa participated in the 2015 edition of ATC, where his engineering prowess received a huge boost.
"I have been yearning to apply theories learned in the classroom to solve every day challenges affecting our society. Skills upgrade and modern machines provided by China will enhance realization of our industrialization dream," said Barasa.
Perry Ajuma, a 23-year-old holder of a diploma in mechanical engineering, hailed the internship at Technical University of Kenya, where she is honing her expertise in the use of automated machines to produce metal parts.
The bubbly young engineer thanked China for facilitating her acquisition of technical skills that would be useful in future.
"I thank China for the computerized numerically controlled machines that have improved my technical knowhow," said Ajuma.