Just over a year ago, on a bright sunny day in April, a 99-year-old man stood outside his house and held onto his walking frame. His name was Captain Tom Moore and his pledge to walk 100 lengths of his garden to raise funds for an over-worked NHS captured hearts across the globe. It is fitting, therefore, that we bring this story to you today, on what would have been his 101st birthday.
Last week we were honoured to be the first school in the country to pledge its support for the Captain Tom 100 initiative, which has galvanised support from hundreds of schools around the country who are taking part in the project to raise funds for the Captain Tom Foundation.
The Foundation supports causes close to the late Captain’s heart; one of these causes aims to champion education and equality. Lower Sixth Former and grandson of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore, Benjie Ingram-Moore, is at the helm of the project in school and has encouraged other boys to follow his lead to take part in the challenge centred around the number 100. In line with the ‘education and equality’ pillar of the foundation, the school has pledged to undertake guided reading sessions to 100 children in deprived schools overseas.
We were therefore delighted to hold one of the first guided reading sessions for 30 pupils, including 10 with special needs, at the Lilongwe Demonstration School in Malawi. Following Benjie’s lead was Lower Sixth Former Arun Nanda who read the children’s book ‘One Hundred Steps’ written by Captain Tom. Despite some challenges with technology, the children in Malawi sat extremely patiently until Arun was able to read the book, which he did in an engaging, lively way, showing pictures from the book to the children as he told the story.
The children also had a wonderful surprise in store for us; at the end of the story they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Captain Tom and one of the boys stood and thanked us for reading the story.
Wordsworth Rashid, the teacher in Malawi who helped us organise the session, said, “We were all so excited to talk to you. The children were enthusiastically ready to listen to the story and although we faced challenges with speakers, the children enjoyed seeing Arun reading to them about Captain Tom.”
We are currently arranging to hold the session again as the children would like to ask some more questions and see what a school is England is like. We have also arranged for copies of the book to be sent to the school so the children can read it for themselves.
We were introduced to the school by the Bhusbesi Pride Foundation, a charity that has built a school in Malawi whose activities centre around sport, in particular rugby and netball. Before the pandemic, Bedford School had plans to visit them and create a programme in Malawi whereby our boys would go there during the summer holidays to help with their rugby training skills. When the time is appropriate, we hope to revisit this idea as part of our relationship with Bhusbesi and their partner schools.