The Grammar School at Leeds building a legacy in Malawi

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 December 2013

Award-winning teacher Barry Brindley loads a container for Malawi

Award-winning teacher Barry Brindley loads a container for Malawi

Archant

Teacher honoured for supporting African communities

No one forgets a good teacher, but some are remembered for more than their actions in the classroom.

Barry Brindley, former deputy head at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), has had a lasting impact on the lives of many people – some of the poorest in Africa as well as his own students. He has devoted 25 years to creating a sustainable future for communities in Malawi and his dedication has now been recognised with a lifetime achievement award at the Independent School Awards.

His love for Africa began when he spent an undergraduate semester at the University of Ghana and met his future wife. The day after their wedding, they travelled to Zambia for Barry’s first teaching post, moving to Malawi eight years later to the new Kamuzu Academy.

Back in the UK, Barry joined Leeds Girls’ High School (LGHS) as an economics teacher in 1988 and encouraged his form to become pen pals with Malawian pupils. This simple act of friendship developed into bursary fundraising for Kamuzu pupils, and 25 years later nearly £300,000 has been raised for schools and community organisations in Malawi.

‘Africa gave me the greatest gifts I could ask for – my wife and four children, many friends and 14 years of wonderful memories,’ said Barry. ‘The Malawi project is my way of saying thank you.’

As well as fundraising, the project has shipped more than 200 tonnes of donated goods to Malawi. In 1991 Barry initiated biennial tours for students, which continued after LGHS and Leeds Grammar School merged to create GSAL. To date 348 pupils and 53 staff members have visited Malawi to see for themselves how they are supporting communities in a country where 60 per cent of people live below the poverty line.

Upper sixth students Kate Downie and Katie Toogood took part in the latest Malawi tour, visiting GSAL-supported projects like a feeding centre, orphanages, a district hospital, a village that has achieved self-sufficiency thanks to the provision of a milling machine and several primary schools, where they set to work painting curriculum resources on the walls.

Kate, who ran the Leeds half marathon in 2013 to raise funds for Malawi, said: ‘We had such a warm welcome everywhere, and Mr Brindley was recognised wherever we went; he has a real connection with the people.’

Katie, who wants to study medicine, added: ‘Visiting the district hospital was an eye-opener; just one doctor and lots of patients without beds. It was good to see that our donations of medicines and equipment, surplus to requirements in Leeds hospitals, have helped though.’

Barry retired as deputy head in 2011, but continues as GSAL’s Malawi coordinator: ‘I hope the Malawi project shows that everyone can make a difference.’

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