NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – April 2, 2015 will always remain a dark day for 21 year-old Rachael Munjiru.
She was among 30 students attending morning devotion of the Christian Union at Garissa University College when insurgents stormed the campus and indiscriminately sprayed bullets at them.
Munjiru miraculously survived to narrate the ordeal.
She now lives with her father and three siblings in a small village tucked in the interior of Murang’a County.
It is a beautiful area with magical scenery of breath-taking hills and forests. The lush vegetation of trees, bushes and crops on farms creates a mood of tranquillity with abundance of clean air.
As we drive to Gathaithi village, one cannot fail to notice the beauty that stretches from hill to hill, valley to valley with traces of homesteads.
Unfortunately, Munjiru does not enjoy this nature anymore because of the lifetime injuries meted on her by terrorists.
As we enter the humble homestead, Munjiru’s father is busy fixing a broken motorbike outside a tiny garage filled with spare parts.
He abandons his work and leads us to his sitting room where Munjiru is lying on her side watching a programme on television.
She lifts her head and smiles as we exchange greetings.
She happily chats with her father and cracks jokes. It’s a cordial father-daughter relationship that Munjiru needs now more than ever.
He covers her with a big piece of cloth before lifting her to sit on the couch.
He then places some heavy folded pieces of clothes on her lower legs.
“We have to put this so that she does not lose her balance and fall backwards. She has no balance even when sitting,” he told us.
He lifts her to a wheelchair, puts her shoes on and then pushes her outside the house for the interview.
It’s almost a year ago since she was attacked, but she freshly recalls every second of it.
“We were praying. Then they suddenly entered the room. I knew it was them (Al Shabaab). I did not doubt it.”
“I was standing near a wall. I lay on the floor on one side of my body facing the wall.”
“I did not want to see them killing me. My back was facing them. They shot me on my back and on my legs,” she recounted.
Seven bullets sunk into Munjiru’s body.
The worst was the life threatening bullet that went through her spine.
“The bullets were countless. Some hit me. Some landed on my feet, others on my legs, others passed over my body. I knew I was dead.”
She spent nine months in hospital from April to January 4, 2016 when she left hospital to attend her mother’s burial.
“We had a nice day on Christmas Day. Then on Monday I received the news that she was no more.”
“The pain was too much. But what can one do? I was already in pain and then the pain of losing my mother,” she recalled.
Munjiru and her father share a lot in common. They find solace in God.
They have also accepted Munjiru’s life threatening condition and the loss of her mother.
“It has been difficult but I have accepted and I have said this is my daughter and the one who would have taken care of her is her mother, but she passed on recently. I have learnt that the only way is to accept my daughter’s life has changed and I have accepted that her mother is no more,” her dad explains.
“But I will always ensure that Munjiru will never lack my support. As long as I live, I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want bad thoughts of losing her mother to occupy her mind. I want to do what her mother would have done if she were alive today.”
It was moving to see both Munjiru and her dad fighting back tears whenever they spoke about the death of her mother.
But it was consoling that they have decided to positively face the challenges facing them.
Since Munjiru was attacked, her father abandoned his business to replace it with countless hospital visits.
It was an attack that shattered his dreams and plans for his family.
“Munjiru is the first born. I sacrificed the best I could to take her to university. It was hard to believe what we heard about the attack.”
“I was heartbroken. It is now a hard life. I had planned for my family well. But the attack on Munjiru has disrupted everything.”
It was after Munjiru was discharged from hospital that her father opened a small garage at home, where he makes about, Sh300 a day.
Despite the hardship and pain that Munjiru bears on a daily basis, she is valiant and does not empathise with her condition.
She looks into the future with a lot of hope.
The first year student who was studying Education Science at the time of the attack believes she will also walk again.
“I must continue with my studies. I want to become a secondary school teacher. By God’s mercy, I also believe I will walk again.”
Most of the bullet wounds on her body have healed.
But she has a big oozing wound that keeps re-opening after every treatment.
She is also confined to a wheelchair because of the spinal injury that has weakened her lower legs.
Munjiru requires Sh2 million to go for treatment in India.
So far well-wishers have raised Sh1.8 million.
Munjiru is appealing for help to raise the remaining amount through Pay Bill No.316299, Account Name: Rachael Munjiru Gikonyo.