Sylvia Cheptowot: 16-Year-Old Girl Who Saved 140 People From Bandit Attack Recognized As Mashujaa Hero

16-year-old girl whose voice saved the lives of 140 people early this year in bandit’s attack has been feted during Mashujaa Day.

Sylvia Cheptowot Losorekow was in the bus that was attacked by bandits in Elgeyo Marakwet in February this year as students returned to school from a field trip.

On February 17, 2022, the country’s collective attention was drawn to reports of the incident in Baringo where a convoy of three buses, ferrying high school children, had been attacked by bandits.

Sylvia was one of the girls in that ill fated bus on that day. She recalls an eventful, illuminating trip to Lake Baringo, and the fun moments she shared with her fellow students as they made the trip back to school.

Unknown to them, that cheery atmosphere would soon be shattered in the most traumatic manner. Bandits lay in ambush and opened fire on the bus.

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“Tukakutana na wahalifu, tukapigwa na risasi, driver wetu akakufa na wenzangu wakaumia…hata mimi niliskia nimepigwa kwa miguu mbili yote, na ya left ikavunjika,” she recalls.

Confused, bleeding profusely and afraid of the now dangerous situation the students found themselves in, Sylvia did the only thing she could think of in those crucial moments. She had heard the attackers speak in a language she understood.

“Walikuwa wanataka kuingia basi, mimi nikafungua mdomo nikaongea, ndio hao wakasikia mdomo yangu, nikapiga nduru, wakasikia, nikawaambia sisi ni wanafunzi wa Tot High School na sisi ni Pokot tuko ndani msitumalize,” she says.

Those words saved the lives of those onboard the bus, and the other two in the convoy, as the bandits abandoned their deadly mission. Mercy Korir, a teacher at Tot High School, was in the bus behind Sylvia’s.

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“Sylvia akasave the many because the intention of those guys, naskia walikuwa wanataka kuingia kwa bus ndani ndio Sylvia akaopen up akaongea, and then they fled,” narrates Ms. Korir.

Sylvia and the other students were evacuated from the scene of the deadly attack and treated at a local hospital.

“Kufika Kapsowar nikapelekwa theatre, nikafanyiwa operation, risasi ilikwamia ndani, nikakaa mpaka asubuhi wakanipeleka ward, wakapima miguu yangu wakasema ilikuwa imevunjika vibaya na watawekea chuma ya nje, wakafanya operation Monday, wakawekea kichuma ya nje,” says Sylvia.

She spent three months in hospital, and another four at home recuperating, but that journey to recovery hasn’t been easy. She has had another operation since to fix the metal plate in her leg.

“She is going through a hard situation because their background is poor, their father was killed months before that incident happened, and infact she mentioned that during that incident. Baba yao ndiye alikuwa tegemeo kwao, the first two siblings dropped out,” says Ms. Korir.

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She is now dependent on the goodwill of her high school for upkeep, but she admits that it hasn’t been easy adjusting to life on crutches.

“Nikichoka naenda kulala kidogo, narudi darasa tena, mi nakaa tu hivi locker yangu inakaa hapa mguu yangu inakaa straight,” says Sylvia.

Sylvia will have to repeat her Form Two studies having lost close to seven months due to injuries suffered in that attack, but she says she would not hesitate to speak out again in a similar situation.

She is hopeful that her dream of becoming a teacher will eventually materialise, for now, she is content with recognition as one of Kenya’s youngest heroes.

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