About a year ago, I tried to get my business name registered at Sheria House. On my fifth visit, the lady at the counter said I couldn’t register the name because ‘Writing and Editing’ is not a real business, and neither is ‘Freelance Editorial Work.’
This year, I had to go to a different wing of Sheria House – the birth certificate section. I’ve already told part of this story here, but I never quite concluded it.
I was trying to add a name to my baby’s birth certificate. I started at Sheria House, and I was told to go to the tent at Uhuru Park. All birth certificate matters are handled there. I got there at 8.45am, and there was a queue but no staff, so I did a few laps and came back at 9.15. The queues appeared and disappeared … which means people stood in line until somebody broke off, then they’d scramble to the counter until the staff struck [striked?] and made them queue again. I was given a form, which I filled , then went to the cashier. He told me to go to Counter 2.
I should mention, by the way, that the counters are just four giant half-open tents with desks in them. It’s way less stuffy than government offices. There’s plenty of good ventilation, lots of grass to sit on, vendors with sugary stuff and cold drinks, and if all else fails, you could just fall into the nearby lake.
The line to Counter 2 was really long. I mean like reeeaaaally long. And also … there were Two Counter 2’s. The second one had no line at all. I decided to play dumb and try it. Yay, I was right! Except the guy talked about affidavits and said I go to Sheria House Counter 6. Sigh.
I walked back to the building queued for five minutes, and told the grumpy lady of my problem. Her response? Go back to the tent. Lord!
I went back to the tent to talk to the same guy. I know government workers can be nasty, and I wasn’t going to risk pissing him off. But he was busy so I asked the guy next to him. The guy was busy telling some old man to – yes – go back to Sheria House. The man was in tears. Apparently, he’d been going back and forth since 20th December. Poor guy.
The server guy got bored of explaining and turned his attention to me. I explained what I needed and he asked why. After all, the kid has enough names already. After some explanation, he sent me back to Guy Number 2, who was now less occupied. I once again explained my problem, including the Counter 6 issue. He smiled and said my daughter was his namesake – or rather – his daughter’s namesake. He wrote some numbers in a book in red, ripped off the bottom of my form, and told me to come back in a week. Wow! That was easy! I didn’t even pay or anything!! I pointed this out, but he just smiled and said he’d see me next week. Apparently, their policy is cash on delivery. Hmmm…
The next week, I went back and was asked to pay and come back after one week. I did, and was asked to wait another week. I visited the tent about twice a week for three months. At the end of March, they realized something was wrong, and asked me to check with the Customer Care Desk at Sheria House. The lady there sent me to Counter 6, where I was redirected to Counter 4.
The lady at Counter 4 suggested I go back to Uhuru Park … where I was told to go back to Sheria House. This cycle lasted another three weeks. Eventually, one attendant suggested I re-apply, since the certificate was obviously lost. When I explained that it was a correction, and that they had the original certificate, I was referred to Counter 3.
The guy at Counter 3 informed me that I was wasting his time, and that they weren’t processing certificates from 2002. They were focusing on candidates. I asked if that included certificates to be corrected. I mean, surely all they had to do was type in the new name, right?
I then got quite a lecture about how I had no respect for government workers, and how I thought their work was really easy, and that corrections took even longer because they had to trace the file, print a new certificate, shred the old certificate and etc and etc. He tossed my receipt at me while he spoke and I walked away to leave him yelling at himself. I went back to Sheria House.
I was advised to check in three days and when I did, I was asked to see a Mr. Gacheru. Mr. Gacheru listened to my explanations then put some red scribbles at the back of my receipt and sent me to Sheria House. The scribbles read:
‘Certificate sent to Sheria House for correction and never returned. Please deal.’
The lady at Customer Care led me to Counter 6. Again. The Counter 6 lady is really scary by the way. She took one look at me and before I could say anything, she barked at me to go back to Uhuru Park. I started to explain and she suggested I go back to Customer Care, so I did. The Customer Care lady asked what had happened, then referred me to a Mr Waweru who worked in the restricted section. Finally, progress! Mr Waweru asked me to come back next week with the birth notification. Groan.
The next week saw me at his desk. He sent me to Uhuru Park, and when I couldn’t find anything, I came back and checked Counter 6 again. The scary lady yelled quite a bit then gave me a box of certificates to search through. While I was searching, a lady came up behind me and looked over my shoulder. She had a rather large baby on her hip.
After half an hour, she let out a little squeal, grabbed a certificate, and sang hallelujah. I could feel her celebration. It had taken that long to get her baby’s papers in order. Anyway, I had no luck so I went back to Mr Waweru. He listened to me then handed my papers to a lady next to him and asked me to wait outside as he opened the file. I passed the time watching a jovial guard alternately taunt and threaten clients who got too uppity for his liking.
Four hours later, Mr Waweru called me and explained that the name I was trying to add – Ading – is actually my middle name, not the child’s name. It couldn’t be added because it would serve as a surname, and birth certificates have no provisions for surnames. In short, I had just wasted 5 months of my life. Sigh. He advised me to come pick up my unchanged documents the next day.
The next morning, the papers were still not ready, and they suggested I come in the afternoon. I decided to wait three days. On the fourth day, I arrived and found … my baby’s birth certificate … with all three names including Ading!
For about half an hour, I was too elated to complain and I waltzed around town dancing for joy. Then it hit me. Either Sheria House had held the corrected certificate for five months … or they had held it for five months, made me go pointlessly back and forth, and then corrected it in two days. How now?
Bottom line is that after five months of grief, my baby has a spanking new, clean birth certificate with all her names on it, and when the time comes, she can register for exams in peace. I can’t wait to try getting her Drivers Licence and ID.