COUNTLESS CONCERNS

Census a tale of awkward queries, strained officials

From interrupted clubbing to unsettling questions, the count is ruffling feathers. But as many Kenyans await their turn, enumerators are grappling with long hours, rudeness and no food or transport allowances

In Summary

•About 170,000 enumerators and supervisors have been recruited to work in this year’s Housing and Population Census.

•The aim is to determine population, living conditions and ethnic composition, and inform resource allocation.

Deputy President William Ruto and his family during the census at his Karen residence
Deputy President William Ruto and his family during the census at his Karen residence
Image: Image: DPPS

When the clock strikes 8pm and night gathers, Nairobi comes alive. A whole flurry of activities goes on in the gleeful watch of the moon and the stars.

Whether you want to dance, listen to live music, eat delicious food or hang out at a wine bar and drink a tot of tequila, there's always plenty to do at all hours of the night. The city clubs close at the wee hours of the morning.

The aim is to determine population, living conditions and ethnic composition, and inform resource allocation.

 
 

But over the weekend, the 'cirry', as Governor Mike Sonko calls it, was desolate and imbued with an unfamiliar silence.

 
 

All bars remained closed as Kenya embarked on its decennial count of all persons within its borders for resource allocation planning.

Nairobians were surprised that all watering holes were closed as per the directive by Internal Security CS Fred Matiang'i.

"Even Sabina Joy, one of the oldest entertainment joints in Kenya was closed," a client outside the club told the Star.

"The last time the joint closed was during the 1982 coup attempt. We have never seen this place closed and we don't understand why they had them close down on a Saturday, when most of us want to relax after a long week at work."

The local disco matangas, where a group of men, women and children dance the night away, were asked to refrain from the occasion.

Church 'keshas' were also suspended during the census, which ends on Saturday, August 31. In Homa Bay, night runners were ordered to stop their operations for the duration of the count.

So, how is the going for Kenyans and census officials during the enumeration? The Star took to the streets to interview Kenyans and phoned enumerators for answers.

 
 

Most of those the Star interviewed are yet to be counted. A separate poll by the Star found that 57 per cent of readers are still awaiting their date with the questionnaire. But those who've faced it said it left a lot to be desired.

That question [if any man who slept in my house the day before] was ridiculous. How will that help the government in planning the resources?
Jane Mwende

'RIDICULOUS' QUESTIONS

The fraction of Kenyans who were enumerated during the weekend were baffled by the questions asked by the enumerators. Some felt the questions did not make sense.

Jane Mwende said she was asked whether there was any man who slept in her house the day before the census.

"That question was ridiculous. How will that help the government in planning the resources?" she said.

John Kimani said the question of whether he uses a flush toilet or a latrine was irrelevant.

John Jonte said the enumerators asking whether he is albino and they can see his colour of the skin is 'unusual'. Asking whether you have a television set yet they can see it is also 'funny'.

"Enumerators should stop playing with our minds," he said.

Other Kenyans questioned the authenticity of the process. Martin Njogu said the country will not really know the real employment rate unless another census is carried out.

"One of the most important census questions is usually about employment. Why did Jubilee decide to mess up with the question? I was asked have you worked in the last seven days?" Njogu said.

He has not worked for months and he wondered how they would calculate the unemployment rate using vague questions.

"Two people under my roof on the census night were on leave in the last seven days, so they were counted as unemployed! I queried that question and the enumerator insisted they didn't work," Patrick Mumo said.

Kimani Njoroge* said the enumerators should ask some questions privately if they want honesty.

"They asked me whether I have kids out of wedlock and another wife in front of my wife. Of course I said no, but in reality, I have sired a kid outside marriage," Njoroge said.

Fredrick Ombako said it seemed like each enumerator is asking the question differently.

"I was never asked where I’ve worked for the past whatever period. I was just asked about my occupation. So perhaps within this census, they’re also carrying out a mini-survey with a random sample?" Ombako said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes a statement after participating in the 2019 National Population and Housing Census at his Nairobi home on Saturday evening
President Uhuru Kenyatta makes a statement after participating in the 2019 National Population and Housing Census at his Nairobi home on Saturday evening
Image: Image: PSCU

HEAVY WORKLOAD

Esther Wanjiku, an enumerator at Tumaini centre, Rongai, said she is unable to meet the target households because of the time spent in one house.

She said they were trained to ask questions in a roughly 30-minute interview per household. They load the answers on to the CAPI tablet in a paperless process.

Wanjiku said this guarantees faster capturing of data, compared to the questionnaires that were used in the previous count in 2009.

She said they have to count everybody in a household, including visitors.

"In some houses, you find the household size is so large, with more than 10 members, and you cannot spend 30 minutes on them as they need more time," she said.

Wanjiku also said in some houses, you don't find the whole family, so they have to wait for the family representative at the house during that moment to confirm the pertinent details.

"Some times you have to be patient and allow the family member to call and confirm ID details," she said.

This year's census will be captured faster than has been the case during previous censuses.

The data this time round is also more secure and collected faster.

Another enumerator from Kitisuru, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, said he would work from 6am to 10pm.

George Maina* said by the time it gets to 10pm, he is very exhausted and sometimes hungry, for they don't have food or transport allowances.

"In case you finish enumerating earlier than 10pm, you are asked to help out another colleague without a fee," he said.

Former President Daniel Arap Moi during the census at his Kabarak home on Saturday evening
Former President Daniel Arap Moi during the census at his Kabarak home on Saturday evening
Image: COURTESY
My name is Benjamin Kioko, I am single. I have no sheep or ship and I have no job. The government denied me the census job
Sign enumerator found on door of house in Kayole

DISRESPECTFUL KENYANS

Another enumerator, Samantha Wairimu* (not her real name), said she went to interview a household in Kayole.

Upon arrival, she stumbled on a big sign pinned on the door. Written on it were the name of the tenant, his marital and work status.

"My name is Benjamin Kioko, I am single. I have no sheep or ship and I have no job. The government denied me the census job," the sign read.

Wairimu explained that the country has been divided into enumeration areas, each with an average of 100 households. Each enumeration area is served by one enumerator, so she had to convince him to accept the interview.

"Most people don't know the importance of the census. They refuse to answer questions or to even to talk to you, so you have to convince them that census is for their own good," she said.

Edited by Tom Jalio