Senteiyo Kateiya was asleep when a house she had sought refuge in, in Mukutani, Baringo County, came under attack from bandits.
She was woken up by cries from mothers shielding their children as the attackers sprayed the house with bullets.
When the guns finally went silent, 11 people lay dead inside the house. Among them were Kateiya’s mother, brother, grandmother and four other people.
Kateiya, then aged seven, was shot in the head and left for dead.
She was discovered among the dead as rescuers collected bodies from the scene.
She was bleeding heavily and was taken by Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers to a private hospital in Gilgil.
However, at the facility, she was turned away because she could not raise the Sh20,000 admission fee.
Kateiya lay in deep pain for one-and-a-half hours inside an ambulance as Kenya Red Cross Society officials and relatives pleaded with hospital administrators to admit her.
Her rescuers later took her to the Nakuru Level Five Hospital from where she was later referred to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital where she was treated and discharged.
When The Standard team visited the hospital at the time, Kateiya was restless and in pain. She was crying and complained of a headache.
Unaware that they were dead, Kateiya kept asking her uncle where her older siblings and her mother were.
That was in March last year.
Today, Kateiya is a jovial Standard One pupil at Jawabu School in Rongai Sub-county.
She is a class prefect, and her teachers and peers fondly call her ‘senator’.
Teachers say she is among the most responsible pupils in the class and has bravely fought to pick up pieces of her life that was almost ended by a bandit’s bullet.
Her class teacher Carol Lusala told The Standard that at first, Kateiya was so traumatised that she kept to herself and would burst into tears for no apparent reason.
It took some patient counseling before she began interacting with other pupils.
“She was so traumatised and would start screaming sometimes. She was so disturbed,” said Lusala.
After the attack, Kateiya developed a phobia for anyone in uniform, including her fellow learners. To her, the sight of a uniform reminded her of the night she lost her mother in a hail of bullets.
“She would scream whenever she saw a police officer in uniform. To her, the presence of police meant death. I am happy she is now able to interact with everybody freely,” her teacher said.
Kateiya was taken in by a Good Samaritan in Nakuru town who was touched by her story.
“I cried when I saw pictures of the girl circulate in the media after the attack. It was God who saved her life. Banditry is a criminal act that nobody would wish to experience; this is why I decided to take her in,” said Kateiya’s guardian, a magistrate.
He has pledged to see Kateiya through school.
“All I want is to see the girl get love, access quality education and grow into a productive woman who will bring impact in the society,” he said.
The magistrate, who did not want his name revealed, said he comes from Kateiya’s home area and has seen many people die following banditry attacks and their property stolen and destroyed.
He said he would not wish what Kateiya went through on anyone.
“I come from Mukutani and it is painful that the locality has remained undeveloped because of banditry attacks. I would not wish to see anyone suffer because of banditry,” he said.
Kateiya, he said, is obedient and jovial, adding that she has since gained confidence and is able to interact with other children freely.
“She is lovely and a very jovial girl. Everyone likes her and she is always playing with other children. I am happy to see her happy,” he said.
Baringo Police commander Smollest Munyanzi said security has been restored in the area and patrols enhanced to avoid future attacks.
“Peace has been restored. Police, however, continue with patrols,” said Munyanzi.