Somewhere in Nairobi County’s Kibra slum, life sounds like a movie series. A person labors with hopes of making it in life, as soon as tomorrow. So, one minute you are upbeat about life, and another life you have sunk in depression, all hopes doomed.

Brian Omondi resides in Laini Saba, deep in the heart of Kibra. Before departing his shanty house for a day’s labour, he carries with all his academic certificates. Not because he is going to drop them at any desk for job consideration but simply to keep up with the spirit of once beaten, twice shy old adage.

House fires is a regular occurrence in Kibra. Kibra Deputy County Commissioner Jesse Ithae attributes this catastrophe, in part, to illegal electric connections. For most residents, fire is a fact of life, a random but persistent snatcher of homes and hearts and valuables like academic papers!

Reason why Mr Omondi packs his papers in his back-pack every day. Fire had light up in his belly in 2018. About 20 houses in his neighborhood were reduced to ashes, with every household item inside. He was there to be part of the experience when his neighbors started life all over again, from scratch; buying house items to parents applying for new birth certificates for their children to several other every new beginnings.

“It is better to lose your certificates knowing that you really tried to keep them. I better have them with me and leave my other stuff burn to ashes.

“Living in Kibra can really be had; one minute everything is okay, the next you receive a call from your neighbor informing you that a conflagration is consuming your houses, you need to come home and salvage your stuff,” says Mr Brian.

His advice to other Kenyans with vital certificates, and who lives within Kibra is to better prevent than cure.

“Save your future by saving your certificates”, he exclaims.

Every graduate is looking for employment opportunity, if the huge unemployment mess in this country is anything to go by. Employers on the other hand insist on seeing original academic certificates as proof that a person attended the 8-4-4 system, especially now that almost everything is fake in this country.

The story of Millicent Akola’s family is no doubt an episode in this series. They too lived in this southwestern edge slum of central Nairobi; the largest and most populated slum in sub-Saharan Africa, which is Kibra. Fire, altered the destiny of Ms. Akola’s family destination in various ways.

Their story comes close to that of the good servant of the Lord, Job – whose wealth was ‘snatched’ by God to test his faith. The second bit of job’s story, reclaiming back, is yet to be epitomized in Millicent’s family.

On June 12th, 2019, fire ensued in Katwekera village in Kibra. Their house’s possessions, approximating to 100,000 shillings were all trapped by flames.

She vividly recounts of how slum fire marshals and lieutenants could not help that day, leave alone  fire engines from Nairobi county – which at most times, according to residents, arrive late at scenes or without enough  water to extinguish fire.

Unlike other leafy suburbs of Nairobi where occupants are put through the paces of caretaker-led evacuation drills, in Kibra you will have to learn this through experience and exposure.

Two weeks later, Ms. Akola was accompanied by her sister to Kilimani police station.  She had a copy of a Police Abstract from Kilimani police station. Her sister wanted to apply for one as well. They were not having issues with the police; your guess is good as mine.

 “We lost our school certificates in the fire,” she said.

Note that participatory certificates awarded to Ms. Akola have not been mentioned here. Any hopes of ever replacing them? Not at all.

Earlier on April 24th this year, Mary (not her real name), lost copies of her certificates. It was however not due to fire outbreak but floods.  Her house was erected near a stream at Bombululu area. She had just moved in, unknown to her, tragedy was lurking.

Two days after she moved in, a heavy downpour pounded Kibra. Everything in her house was wet; the walls of the house could not stand it, and her important documents were unrecognizable. Luckily, the good gods had told her to store their originals at her brother’s place in Bonhomie, Nairobi.

According to information from the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC), a person who wants to replace their lost or damaged Kenya Certificate of Primary Or Secondary education certificates is supposed to   fill a ‘KNEC Certificate Replacement Form’ and attach Copy of the certificate(s) or result slip(s), Letter of recommendation from head teacher of the school attended, Sworn legal affidavit on identity of applicant, Letter of recommendation from employer to KNEC, Police Abstract indicating of loss of certificate, Copy of Identification Card (ID) or a Passport, or Birth Certificate for those under 18 years, plus sh,800 per certificate lost.

A person who successfully endures this office-to-office visits can only receive new originals after sixty working days from KNEC.

A fire incident reported  at Laini saba , kibra

Data from the office of Kibra deputy county commissioner indicates there have been more than five fires in the area, with the latest occurring in Katwekera. In 2018, there were at least ten major fires with the worst being that of Silanga area where eight lives were lost.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is on record saying the Government has laid an appropriate legal and policy foundation that would provide the platform to transform the country-housing sector.

How this will change Kibra is a question asked by many. An area where houses are made of poor quality building materials; mud, iron sheets, carton boxes and polythene sheets – all need urgent change for sure!


By By Henix Obuchunju

Multimedia journalist

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