Rift as varsities hold parallel fete

Group breaks away from national drama festival, citing mistreatment as curtain comes down

Michael Muraya @Michael_muraya

A rift has emerged in this year’s Kenya National Drama Festival (KNDF) that has seen some universities break away from the annual fete to hold a parallel event under the umbrella of the Kenya Universities Performing Arts and Film Association (Kupaa).

While some universities were presenting their stage items at Moi Girls’ High School during the the 59th edition of the KNDF that ended yesterday, a splinter group was holding a parallel festival at the Presbyterian University of East Africa, Kikuyu.

There was confusion as some of the teams expected to stage items at KNDF failed to turn up at the venue and instead, attended the Kupaa festival.

Among teams that performed at the Kupaa festival include Multimedia University, Mount Kenya University, Egerton University and Technical University of Kenya. On the other hand, teams that staged items at KNDF included Kenyatta University, Rongo University, Maasai Mara University, Maseno University, among others.

Organisers of Kupaa festival cited mistreatment, unsuitability and lack of harmony between the university calendar and that of colleges, primary and secondary schools as the reasons why they opted to break away from KNDF and hold a festival exclusively for institutions of higher learning.

Speaking to People Daily yesterday, Kupaa secretary general Patrick Ogutu said Kupaa was tailor-made to suit university students.

He said KNDF is under the State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education while on the other hand, Kupaa is under the State Department for University Education, all in the Ministry of Education.

“The planning and organisation is tailored to befit and benefit university students, something that is lacking at KNDF,” he said. He said the items presented by universities were a bit advanced and hence, it is more suitable for them to hold an exclusive festival.

While referring to a stage presentation where the performer was comically describing how female students dance seductively, Ogutu said it was illogical to stage such items in front of primary school pupils.

While juxtaposing the two fetes, Ogutu said unlike KNDF, Kupaa festival has panel discussions and open forums after every session to analyse and review the stage items presented.

“For us, this is not a co-curricular activity. It is an academic activity,” he said. He accused the KNDF leadership of sidelining universities in the past, saying it influenced the decision for varsities to hold own festival.

Last year for instance, Ogutu said, while other institutions were holding the fete in halls around Kisumu CBD, the universities staged their items at Nyamasaria Primary School, in a remote suburb away from the action. “Getting to the venue was even a problem for the teams.

And at the venue, unlike here at Kupaa, the officials never even recognised the presence of Deans, Vice Chancellors and other varsity heads,” he said.

However, the programme at Moi Girls where varsities allied to the KNDF were performing, went on without hitches despite some teams failing to turn up.

Multimedia University, for instance, was scheduled to perform their play, Wits of Woe, on Sunday but instead chose to stage it at the splinter festival.

They went on to triumph at the fete with their play among the items that proceeded to the winners’ gala yesterday. At KNDF, Kenyatta University scooped top awards that included the winning play and best item on cohesion and integration.

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