Mr. Patrich Mudanya has been a teacher in Chesakam Primary School since 2010. The School is located along the Kapedo route, about 9 km from Chemolingot, the headquarters of East Pokot Sub-County. It was his first job after graduating from school, first as a regular teacher, then a deputy teacher in 2012, and finally headmaster in 2014. The school was opened in 1988 but its students had never sat for National exams until the year 2014 when as a headmaster he registered the school and the students sat for their first national exam. They performed very well in the second sitting in 2015 and Chesakam was ranked the 2nd best performing school in the entire Sub-county. ‘I attribute this to God. It is a personal achievement. I must say that it has not been easy, this is a hardship area and the reason why I have stayed is because I believe God has a purpose for my being here. I am a missionary.’
“Where I come from in Western Kenya, there is no Kala-azar. My first encounter with disease was in East Pokot. In the past three years, three of my pupils have been admitted to Kimalel Health Centre after testing positive for Kala-azar. The boys were 9, 10 and 12 years of age. The three boys came from the nearby Chesakam Village. They were skinny but had swollen stomachs. The first case was severe because it took us a long time to determine the cause. At first, we thought it was Kwashiorkor, a result of poor nutrition. The boy got increasingly worse and I rushed him to Chemolingot Hospital where he was referred to Kimalel Health Centre. The boy tested positive for Kala-azar. The disease was at its late stages and the boy’s kidneys were failing. Unfortunately, soon after treatment the boy dropped out of school because of poverty. His mother is epileptic and his father is poor. Now, the boy is taking care of someone’s camels. After the first pupil was treated, it was easier to spot the other two. I incurred all the expenses of transport and stay at Kimalel. In this community, people do not seek treatment early, they rush to the hospital when it is almost too late to save a life. However, the parents always come to express their appreciation.”
We are glad that the Izumi NTDs Project visited our school to sensitize us on Kala-azar. Now we understand how the disease is spread. There are large numbers of anthills in Chesakam. The school has a large share. One anthill has partially destroyed the third graders’ classroom. The termites have eaten through the brick wall. I suspect during construction they did not apply enough insecticide when laying the foundation. In addition, many people here rarely use mosquito nets. I attribute this to several factors. First, ignorance, since people don’t understand the importance of using nets. Second, poverty, since they cannot afford to buy nets. Third, the type of housing here does not accommodate nets because the space is too small. Fourth, climatic conditions; it is very warm most of the year and people prefer to sleep outside. Lastly, culturally, Pokot boys sleep outside and you will find older men also stay away from their homes. They spend more time with their cattle. My school is being used as a place for boys from nearby villages to sleep.
Since the Izumi team came to school to give Kala-azar talks, a lot has changed. We have so far destroyed 3 active anthills. The children have been told to share this information with their parents and ask those who suspect they have the disease to come to school. We will mobilize support for them to get diagnosed and treated. The child-friendly Kala-azar posters are a constant reminder. Children need to be reminded always, that is how they learn.