Banbury man Tony Scott, who has spent a lifetime working in education, is tackling a 1,000-mile bike ride to provide college tuition for young adults in Malawi.
Mr Scott and his wife Patricia, of Warwick Road, Banbury, first worked in Chitipa, in a remote corner of Malawi, as newly-qualified, newly-married teachers from 1970-72.
The couple worked for Voluntary Service Overseas before returning to the UK to bring up a family and enjoy careers in education, mostly in Oxfordshire.
“We retired and in 2010 went back to Malawi to see how it had changed and to revisit Chitipa, which is still described as the most remote town in Malawi,” said Mr Scott.
“In 1972 Malawi’s population was four million, Chitipa’s 2,000. It is now 16 million and 12,000. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is mostly subsistence farming, so reliant on the rains. Now there is deforestation because of the population growth; primary education is free but not compulsory and class sizes are huge – 90 to 100 because of teacher shortages.
“Secondary education is still fee-paying. Water hand pumps are in most villages and mobile phones are everywhere. In 1972 there was only one public phone and you had to book a call.
“There is much more traffic but it’s still most common to walk or ride a bike,” he said.
Mr and Mrs Scott met Raphael Mukumbwa, who had set up a coffee growers’ co-operative and was establishing a Trade School to teach post-secondary students building skills including bricklaying, carpentry, electrical installation and plumbing.
The Scotts returned to set up a charity called Friends of Chitipa to help fund the project, which has raised more than £4,000 so far. The cause has its own Facebook page, Friends of Chitipa.
“As a fundraising effort and for fun I’m riding with a friend, Simon Adams from Abingdon, from St Malo to Marseille, 900-1,000 miles, starting on May 5 and arriving in Marseille on May 21,” said Mr Scott.
“We’ll be following the country roads through Brittany, the Loire valley, the Massif Central and down the Rhone Valley.
“There is also the possibility of climbing Le Mont Ventoux of Tour de France fame, on our bikes, if time and the weather allow,” he said. Mr and Mrs Scott returned to Malawi last year to see ‘great progress’. They met students, teachers and community leaders who are very supportive of the school but cannot provide financial support.
“This January the first cohort of approximately 90 students got their results with a 60 per cent pass rate – and re-sits will be taken in May,” said Mr Scott.
Mr Scott was head of pupil referral units in Banbury and Bicester before becoming a county education officer and Mrs Scott was Banbury area head of community education and a district councillor.