A former South Molton deputy headteacher has told in a revealing new book of his inspiring experiences teaching children on the Afghanistan border at the time of 9/11.
Max Grantham, 79, left South Molton Junior School after a decade as deputy headteacher to volunteer for Radio Education for Afghani Children (REACH), teaching Afghani children between 2000 and 2002 as the world changed around them.
His latest book, Reach, chronicles his experience educating children through sound recordings in schools and refugee camps in Peshawar near the Afghan border from 2000 until 2002.
“I wish the understanding of Afghanistan and its peoples was a lot better than it is, and very much regret what has happened to them since 9/11,” Mr Grantham told the Gazette.
He added: “Lots of education is about telling, whereas for me learning starts from where the learner is, and given radio programmes which excite the imagination, children respond in different ways - best of all, they share.”
Having spent three years with the Voluntary Service Organisation in Belize, Mr Grantham was only in Peshawar two years before the British Embassy demanded his evacuation back to Britain, with 9/11 and the Kashmir Crisis having ripple effects on the region.
Mr Grantham, who believes he was the only Western volunteer in the region, said: “I was very cross because the Afghani people are my friends, and I was told I was being evacuated now.
“There was an armed guard with a Kalashnikov escorting me and I thought, oh for goodness sake. It was very tense, because when people have got a gun in their hand, the trigger can wobble.
“I got onto the plane as the only foreigner and I was applauded – we are worlds apart in our understanding of other cultures.”
The latest journal follows Who Can Tell, his first book documenting his prior volunteer experience in Belize in the late 1990s.
“From my point of view, I’ve been able to sow some seeds, sharing skills and learning from others,” he added.
“I’ve done what I think I should have done, and feel very fortunate, it really is such a privileged position to be in.
“The children in Peshawar are hugely intelligent and free, they’re never bored yet they have got nothing, so they must be learning.”
Reach is available for £8.99 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.