Off to slake a thirst for knowledge

With a combined teaching experience of more than 100 years, they could be forgiven for thinking they had done their duty when it comes to educating young minds.

With a combined teaching experience of more than 100 years, they could be forgiven for thinking they had done their duty when it comes to educating young minds.

But four retired teachers from Norfolk are about to embark on an adventure which will perhaps be their toughest challenge yet.

The women, all in their 60s, responded to an article during the EDP's recent Dying of Thirst Appeal, and have volunteered to travel to Tanzania and help children with their English in the rain-starved Kiteto area.

For Brenda Packman, from Rockland St Mary, the trip will be a chance to reconnect with the continent on which she had her first teaching post some 40 years ago.

“I was trying to do one of the cryptic crosswords in the EDP one night and happened to flick through when I came across a Dying of Thirst article in which Bishop John Hayden appealed for retired teachers or gap year students who might have some free time,” she said.

The mother of three grown up children was offered a job teaching English as a foreign language in Kenya in 1965 and spent more than two years in the capital Nairobi.

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During that time she travelled to neighbouring Tanzania and is relishing the chance to return.

“I am lucky in that I have the freedom to do this which many people haven't,” said Mrs Packman.

“I am tremendously excited but I also think it will be quite traumatic. I am going because I think I can do something worthwhile but I can't do anything about the drought or starvation.”

Anne Cleverley, from Horningtoft, near Fakenham has been brushing up on her teaching techniques on four-year-old granddaughter Annabel Howell.

She said: “I haven't taught for 13 years because I had to take early retirement due to illness. I have been brushing up on my skills but I don't think it is something you forget.”

Mrs Cleverley, who was a teacher for 37 years in Norfolk, has spent time in Ethopia and Nepal. She will be the first to visit Tanzania in August with the others following in later months. All the volunteers have paid for their own flights and expenses.

“I read the article in the EDP and I just knew I had to do it. When I think about it I get very excited but there is also some trepidation,” she said.

Di Pinder taught in a forces school in Singapore and lived in India but has never tried to teach English as a foreign language to small children before.

“My husband was in the services and when he was posted in Singapore I taught English children in the forces school. We also spent a year in India so at least I am used to such intense heat.”

The mother of two, who lives near Coltishall, has bought a book to help teach her Swahili and is looking into the jabs she needs before she heads off in September.

“When I think about spending three months away I am very excited but on my down days I just hope I am able to do some good. My daughter taught English as a foreign language when she was 18 in Poland and she did a great job. I've had more than 30 years teaching experience so I hope I'll be able to contribute something.”

The trio will be joined by a fourth former teacher from South Norfolk who preferred not to be named.

A ploughman's lunch has been organised in Rockland St Mary on July 19 to raise money for the family of Anderson Nkomo, a vicar who died recently in Tanzania leaving a wife and six children. While Mrs Cleverley will be holding a fundraising evening at Horningtoft Church tomorrow at 7pm. Anyone who brings a bag of balloons for children in Tanzania can have a free glass of wine.