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Foster mother's pain as 'daughter' she has struggled to raise discovers home

By Kevine Omollo and Rushdie Oudia | Dec 15th 2015 | 4 min read
Zainabu Khadija (right) during her graduation with her foster sister Quinter Mino. Her foster family is heartbroken after she left for her real family shortly before her graduation. [Photo: Courtesy]

Syprose Achieng' from Nyalenda, Kisumu County, feels cheated out of his daughter. She and her family are hurt and feel betrayed by their 'daughter', Zainab Khadija. Achieng' is now demanding compensation from Khadija's family in Birini Mwamleka, Kilifi County, for educating their daughter from primary school to university. They also want to be paid 17 years' upkeep expenses.

This strange story started in 1998 when Charles Mino from Nyalenda met a middle-aged woman clutching two little kids and begging for food in the sprawling estate. The sight touched the man's heart and he asked his wife Achieng' to offer the guests a meal and accommodation. The following day, he took them to Central Police Station to hand them over to law enforcers.

At the police station, the Minos learnt that the woman with the two children was a regular guest, having been accommodated by four other families. It was at the station that they learnt that the older child, Khadija, was six years.

"We could not leave them as they had nowhere to go, so we decided to host them as the police had instructed us. It is a decision I'm regretting," says Achieng in her single-roomed house.

When Mino went back to the police with the guests, no solution had been reached yet, and the officers decided to take them back to Mombasa where they could easily trace their home. This, however, was never to be as the woman disappeared with the youngest daughter, leaving behind little Khadija with the Minos.

"When my husband went to report the matter, he was told to take care of the little girl till her family is traced, so we took her to Libeto Primary School as she had reached school-going age," said Achieng.

Mino died three years later in 2002, leaving his wife Achieng to take care of his children and the 'angel' God had brought to them. "My husband told me before his death that never should I abandon the girl and that we should take care of her till her family is traced and that the family would compensate us for the upkeep," she added.

Khadija was later to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams at Kibuye Mixed Primary School where she topped with 399 marks in 2006. The bright girl later joined Kisumu Girls' High School where she scored a B+ (plus) and later joined Egerton University to study Sociology and Literature.

Surprisingly, shortly before her graduation, she took off to her family at the Coast, leaving behind broken hearts.

Khadija traced her family two months ago when she joined a new church. A priest allegedly inquired about her origin, owing to her physical appearance which was quite different from her other siblings. It was at that juncture that Khadija revealed that she was abandoned at a tender age and that she was from the Giriama community at the coast.

"I was perplexed that all this could happen without the girl telling me. I had trusted her all along. It was after she visited me with the church members that I came to know about it, and she disappeared only to call me two days later that she had got to her family in Mombasa," said Achieng.

Achieng's family was surprised to be invited to Khadija's graduation ceremony through a text message in Dholuo: "Erokamano minwa kuom chung' koda e higni mag skul, karibu sherehe mara e mbalariany mar Egerton 4/12/2015 chakre saa adek (Thank you mum for standing with me through my schooling journey, you are invited to my graduation ceremony at Egerton University on December 4, 2015 starting 9am).

Her "siblings" narrated sadly how fond they were of Khadija, who they treated like a sister for more than 16 years. Moses Otieno described Khadija as a loving, caring and intelligent girl.

"I never left her as an elder brother and always protected her from any harm and she was loved more than every other person in the family. My mother never even laid a hand on her yet Quinter and I were thoroughly caned," said Otieno.

Otieno, an alumnus of Kisumu Day Secondary School, said he stayed out of school for over one year as there was no money for school fees so that Khadija could clear her education.

Otieno is still lost for words as to what might have happened to his "sister". He does not know whether to blame the church Khadija was attending for brainwashing her or not.

"Quinter and I studied in day schools while Khadija, who was really loved, studied in a national and boarding school," said Otieno.

Quinter Atieno, foster sister to Khadija, was pained when Khadija preserved the three selected seats at her graduation for her family from Mombasa.

Nevetherless, Ms Atieno went for her "sister's" graduation. She met Khadija with her biological father and two brothers taking photographs after the ceremony.

Atieno took photos with Khadija but when she asked her to accompany her home, her father refused. On their way back to Nakuru, Atieno says, Kazungu paid the fare for Khadija and her two brothers and left out her out.

When The Standard spoke to Khadija on phone, she sounded jovial and admitted that Syprose Achieng is her mother.

"The story is complicated and I'm actually writing a book through which you will get all the details. For now, I can't divulge much but kindly note that I was not kidnapped at the age of six as you may want to believe," she said and hung up.

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