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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Retired Cumbrian teacher offers science lessons help in Gambia

A retired Cumbrian teacher has gone to Gambia to find out how the UK can help African schools teach physics to children.

Laurie Mansfield photo
Laurie Mansfield

Laurie Mansfield, from Watch Hill, near Aspatria, has flown out to Gambia for the first time as a volunteer with the Institute of Physics as part of its global Physics for Development programme.

He was a physics teacher for 35 years and worked latterly, before his retirement, as headteacher of Workington Sixth Form Centre.

Mr Mansfield, who has served as a director of Workington Sixth Form Centre for the last 21 years, has taken a suitcase with him full of basic physics school laboratory equipment – including magnets, thermometers and circuit boards.

He wants to help teachers make their science lessons more practical and relevant to pupils.

Laurie will donate the equipment to Sifoe Secondary School, which is hosting his visit, before he returns home.

In the long-term, the Institute of Physics hopes to develop a new education and resource centre near the secondary school, following the model of six others in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Malawi. The centres aim to train local teachers and help students embrace physics.

Mr Mansfield said: “I am excited about the trip and curious to assess the local situation in schools. There will be plenty of opportunity for us to make a difference there.

“What is ‘basic equipment’ and ‘essential teacher training’ to us in the UK are scarce resources over there, and not to be taken for granted.

“The impact of an experienced teacher sharing practical teaching skills can be immense, and the impact on the children’s education and life opportunities even greater, in the long run.”

During his first visit, Mr Mansfield will be assisted by UK charity Jole Rider, which for the past five years has been supporting education in Gambia by shipping refurbished bicycles to the country for children to use.

They help children get to and from school, avoiding what could otherwise be a very long and dangerous journey for them.

Mr Mansfield will also open talks with officials from the Ministry of Education in Gambia to discuss how the Institute of Physics can help them develop their national physics curriculum, provide better training and resources for teachers and support future physics education.

Mr Mansfield is also part of the Mechanics Band in Cockermouth and the town’s amateur dramatic society. He is married to fellow teacher Janet, who is also a governor at Cockermouth School.

They have four children.

The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics around the world.

Donations can be made to the Physics for Development scheme in Africa by visiting www.justgiving.com/iopforafrica/donate

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