School head who helps parents figure out their children's ages

Patrick Mudanya, the head teacher of Chesakam primary school in Tiaty, Baringo County during an interview at the school on February 4,2015. The school has lost more than 100 pupils since the military pitch camp in the area. PHOTO:KIPSANG JOSEPH

For the past eight years, Patrick Mudanya has been more than more than just the head teacher of Chesakam Primary School in Tiaty, Baringo County.

In a region where few births are registered, Mr Mudanya has taken it upon himself to help his pupils acquire birth certificates. To do this, he must first help parents figure out how old their children are.

He even helps them acquire names to go with the vital document.

It all began in 2010 when Mudanya was posted to the school. At the time, none of the over 300 pupils, largely from the Pokot community, had birth certificates.


The urgent need for the certificates has been recently heightened by new Ministry of Education rules that require learners to present them for registration in school.

But in this vast terrain, a birth certificate is rare to find. Few parents can remember the exact date of birth of their children.

This is where Mudanya comes in.

“I took it upon myself to help the children get names and birth dates. When I joined this school, not even one pupil had a birth notification or certificate,” he said.

Each day, more than 10 pupils at the school get new names as the head teacher, with some background information from the parents, helps them figure out when they were likely to have been born.

Mudanya said the naming process involved both the parents and the pupils, and the new names were easier to pronounce for people that may not speak the local dialects.

“I involve the parents and the pupils so that they are part of making this important decision,” said Mudanya.

On the day The Standard team visited the school, six-year-old Napongoria Chelangat was in the process of picking a new name to be put on her birth certificate.

The girl and her parents would eventually settle on Gladys.

Parents and student are presented with at least three names to choose from. The most suitable one is then picked depending on how easy it is to pronounce.

“I give options of simple names. I get the names from the Bible and also common and easy English names,” said Mudanya.

Together with the parents, he then helps to gauge the pupils' ages.

Many give their children's ages depending on height, size and the class they are in.

“The age is easy to give once the parents have agreed to the name we have given. We determine the age of the pupil by looking at his or her height. The class he is in is also considered,” said the head teacher.

Pupils in lower classes are considered younger and given the most recent dates of birth. Those in the higher classes are considered older.

The number of siblings a pupil has is also taken into account before a date that will go on the birth certificate is given. The number of younger siblings also comes in handy in determining age.

“If one has more than five siblings, he is probably six or seven years old considering the high birth rates in the area,” said Mudanya.

After identifying the year, the teacher must then determine the month and date to be documented.

“Once we agree on the year, then we get a month and day because the parents may not know the exact dates.”

Most parents in the school have applauded the school head for taking the initiative.


Komoli Lodio has three children at the school. He said they were all given English names and birth dates by the head teacher.

“Giving a child an English name is not important to the Pokots while having birth certificates is a dream for many people,” he said.

Upon agreeing with parents on the names and dates of birth, Mudanya then forwards the information to the County Registrar of Persons' office.

“I make photocopies of their parents' national ID cards and present them to Kabarnet, where birth certificates are processed,” he said.

But the mission does not come cheap. It costs him Sh2,000 to travel to Kabarnet every time he goes for the certificates.

“It costs me a lot but I won’t give up. The uniqueness of this place and the pupils' willingness to study motivates me,” said the teacher.

Until now, he has helped to get more than 100 birth certificates for his pupils.

According to some parents, the process of getting the certificates is tiresome. They prefer to get help from Mudanya.

County Education Director Willie Muchocho admitted that most pupils in Tiaty schools did not have birth certificates.

“Most people do not know the importance of the certificates,” he said, adding that the ongoing registration of pupils would help to ensure they got the document.