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Educating Akello

A small girl I encounter outside a Ugandan refugee camp somehow persuades me to pay her school fees. I soon find myself caught up in an ambiguous African story of doubt, mistrust and guilt

By Richard Dowden   August 2006

Too small to reach the seat, she cycles with one leg through the frame of the old-fashioned bicycle and stops in front of me, blocking my way. She greets me with full African solemnity, looking straight into my eyes and says, “Please help me, sah.”

Her long green skirt and bright white shirt say student, but it is late morning and she is not in school. I guess what is coming next: “I beg you please sah. Help me for school fees.”

I have just come from one of the squalid, disease-ridden encampments that the people of northern Uganda, some…

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