Christine's story

7th January 2005 at 00:00
Christine (an alias) is 15 but one of her ambitions is to be a child because she has never had a childhood. Her other is to become an accountant because she loves mathematics.

She has been a pupil at All Saints' Secondary since September, when she arrived in Glasgow and was abandoned by a stranger outside the Scottish Refugee Council buildings, with only the clothes she was wearing and a bible.

Three years ago, Christine was taken from her home in northern Uganda by rebel soldiers. Her mother and older sister were killed and she has no idea where her younger sister is, or even if she is still alive.

The atrocities carried out in the rebels' camps are well known. The rebels routinely took boys away and trained them as soldiers, often deliberately dehumanising them in the process by making them commit acts of barbarity.

Girls and women were frequently abused and enslaved.

Christine is reluctant to talk much about her three years in the rebels'

camp but describes how the girls only ate when they were cooking for their captors and were able to steal some food. She admits to nightmares about her experiences. "In Uganda, it is bad. You see people die; you see very many things. You see children dying."

She tried to run away twice but was caught. On her third attempt, when the camp was under attack, she managed to escape with an old woman named Flo.

They took refuge in Flo's brother's home. Flo died soon after their arrival but her brother continued to look after Christine.

"One day, he came back with a white man and then that white man brought me here," says Christine. "I just met him that day. In the evening, he came to the house and took me and brought me here, to this country.

"The man drove. He told me to sleep. When we reached Entebbe airport he gave me a coffee and a cake. He told me not to stand in the same line as him. He had papers and a red book in his pocket.

"When the plane landed we walked straight outside and there was another man. He told me again to sleep and drove a long way for very many hours. In the morning, he said: 'Let's go for a walk.'

"He told me we were in Glasgow and it was OK. He told me to wait for him, he was going to the bank. He took my bag of clothes and said that if he couldn't come back for me, I must enter the building and ask for help. I waited and waited but he didn't come. I went inside. It was the refugee council building and they took me to the children's home."

Tom McDonald, the headteacher of All Saints' Secondary, believes that Christine is one of several children who have been taken to Glasgow by an agent. Usually, agents are paid by the child's family to aid escape to Britain. Glasgow is a favourite choice because families are treated well in Scotland. However, Christine probably has no family left and mystery surrounds who could have paid for her journey. Mr McDonald thinks it may have been the Catholic Church as she is devout, Flo's brother was a regular churchgoer and the man who left her outside the refugee council gave her the bible.

Before attending All Saints' Secondary, Christine's only education was in a class of 80 pupils in the equivalent of primary school. She says she was usually first or second mathematics and that if she was not at the top of the class, her mother would be very angry.

In her low, soft voice, she whispers: "Sometimes the teacher would get the answers wrong but you could not say anything or he would beat you."

Christine is happy in Glasgow; she has friends and everyone is very kind, she says.

She recently completed her first NAB unit in Intermediate 2 maths. "I felt proud," she says. "At first when I came here, I had to do a lot of work. I was reading and doing mathematics all the time because I was very behind, but now I am up with them. It is only in English that I am a little bit behind."

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