Brian Mwenda’s case sparks debate on the practicality of implementing recognition of Prior Learning policy in Kenya’s tightly regulated professions

  • 19 Oct 2023
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Kennedy Osore

The case of Brian Mwenda has ignited a critical discussion on the practicality of implementing the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy in Kenya, particularly within tightly regulated fields like law. This case underlines the challenge of incorporating non-traditional learning into formal frameworks, showcasing the dichotomy between the Law Society of Kenya’s push for prosecution and the support from some quarters for Brian’s recognition under the Prior Learning Policy.


Fundamentally, the RPL policy in Kenya is designed to validate learning outcomes stemming from a range of experiences, covering both informal and non-formal learning. It acknowledges the reality that individuals in various sectors, spanning from informal to non-formal domains, acquire invaluable knowledge and skills through practical experience. The ultimate objective is to facilitate the recognition of these skills within the national qualifications framework. 


The Ministry of Education introduced the RPL Policy Framework and Implementation Guidelines to offer direction to regulators, qualification awarding institutions, and other stakeholders in its implementation across the country. However, slow progress in implementation due to financial constraints and insufficient awareness efforts necessitates urgent action to unlock the benefits of recognising prior learning experiences in Kenya.


As questions arise about Brian Mwenda’s alleged impersonation of an advocate, a critical query surfaces: does the RPL policy extend its reach to cover tightly regulated professions such as law? The policy, in explicit terms, asserts its applicability to regulators, education institutions, skills development providers, workplaces, recognized professional bodies, RPL practitioners, and candidates. Its comprehensive scope covers qualifications and professional designations on the Kenya National Qualifications Framework (KNQF).


While the benefits of RPL for candidates are evident, particularly in personal development and accessing learning programmes, the real challenge lies in maintaining the integrity and standards necessary for tightly regulated professions like law. Lessons from jurisdictions with parallel policies reveal that rigorous assessment procedures, including portfolio assessments, interviews, and examinations, are integral to evaluating a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and ethical comprehension of the profession. The involvement of professional bodies in the assessment helps uphold industry standards.


Effective communication and collaboration between regulatory bodies, educational institutions, and professional associations are deemed crucial to ensure the transparency of the RPL process and ensure that the outcomes find recognition and acceptance among relevant stakeholders.


In the Kenyan context, involving professional bodies such as the Law Society of Kenya becomes paramount to guarantee that the RPL process for law-related qualifications adheres to requisite standards. The success of the RPL policy in regulated professions hinges on the meticulous implementation of assessment procedures and robust collaboration between stakeholders.


The RPL policy, while aiming to address historical inequalities and provide alternative access routes to qualifications, requires a delicate balance with maintaining the standards and ethics of the professions involved. The Brian Mwenda case serves as a poignant reminder of the need for meticulous consideration and potential refinement of RPL processes in regulated professions to avert potential misuse and uphold the credibility of the legal profession in Kenya.