Teacher changed the lives of thou­sands

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Obituaries -

AMAN whose de­vo­tion to education was said to have trans­formed the lives of thou­sands of chil­dren in Pak­istan has died, aged 101.

Ma­jor Ge­of­frey Lang­lands, who was brought up in Bris­tol and at­tended King’s Col­lege in Taun­ton, taught a pres­i­dent and two prime min­is­ters, but also sur­vived a kid­nap or­deal.

Maj Lang­lands and his twin brother John were born in York­shire in Oc­to­ber 1917. When their fa­ther died the next year in the flu pan­demic, their mother moved the fam­ily to Bris­tol, where her par­ents lived.

How­ever, she died when the twins were just 12, leav­ing them or­phaned and re­ly­ing on friends and rel­a­tives.

Their kind­ness led to Maj Lang­lands be­ing en­rolled at King’s Col­lege. When he left, he se­cured his first teach­ing post at a school in south Lon­don.

When World War Two broke out, Maj Lang­lands vol­un­teered for the Army and be­came a com­mando, tak­ing part in the dis­as­trous Dieppe Raid in 1942.

The BBC re­ported that he was posted to In­dia in 1944 and stayed on after the war to wit­ness first-hand the end of the Bri­tish Em­pire there, and the vi­o­lence of par­ti­tion in 1947 – when the in­de­pen­dent states of In­dia and Pak­istan were cre­ated.

Maj Lang­lands was as­signed to Pak­istan’s new army and spent much of the pe­riod trav­el­ling around the coun­try by train.

He stayed on in Pak­istan after par­ti­tion, but the BBC re­ported that in the early 1950s a chance con­ver­sa­tion would set him on the path that would come to de­fine his life.

Busi­ness­man Ha­roon Rashid, a student of Aitchi­son Col­lege in La­hore in the 1960s, of­ten heard the tale of how the then-mil­i­tary ruler Ayub Khan had asked the ma­jor what his fu­ture plans were.

“Lang­lands told him he was a teacher be­fore the army and would like to go back to teach­ing. In a prompt re­sponse, Ayub said there was a short­age of teach­ers in Pak­istan and would he like to stay back?

“Lang­lands – in an equally prompt re­ply – agreed.”

Maj Lang­lands had al­ready found the school he wanted to teach at – he de­scribed Aitchi­son Col­lege as the “Eton of Pak­istan”.

The BBC said he would spend the next 25 years teach­ing there – in­clud­ing his best-known stu­dents..

The Tele­graph news­pa­per re­ported that one US am­bas­sador would later

Or­phan who was brought up in the West Coun­try be­came a much-loved fig­ure in Pak­istan

joke he had taught half the cabi­net, along­side one pres­i­dent and two prime min­is­ters – in­clud­ing in­cum­bent Im­ran Khan.

By 1979, Maj Lang­lands found a fresh chal­lenge in the moun­tain­ous area of North Waziris­tan, on the bor­der with Afghanistan.

The tribal area was all too much for the head teacher who Maj Lang­lands went to work un­der – he left after a year.

Maj Lang­lands told the BBC: “He said this was a dread­ful place.”

But Maj Lang­lands was not put off by the risks.

“The tribal ar­eas were com­pletely with­out law, and there­fore they didn’t wel­come any vis­i­tor com­ing into their area. They would usu­ally be kid­napped,” he said.

Maj Lang­lands was no ex­cep­tion. He was pulled from the car he was trav­el­ling in in 1988 – all be­cause a lo­cal chief had lost an elec­tion and thought that of­fi­cials might think again if a well-con­nected for­mer sol­dier was kid­napped. He was re­leased after six days when his cap­tors re­alised the plan was not go­ing to work.

Later that year, he moved fur­ther north to take charge of a new school in Chi­tral, which would later be named in his hon­our. He even met the Princess of Wales there as she toured the re­gion.

The BBC re­ported that through the school, Maj Lang­lands changed the lives of thou­sands. It started with just 80 stu­dents and by the time he re­tired, aged 94, there were 800. He spoke proudly not only of how the boys were get­ting schol­ar­ships to the top uni­ver­si­ties, but also an in­creas­ing num­ber of girls.

“He pro­moted the poor of Chi­tral,” Farhat Ta­mas, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy in Pe­shawar Uni­ver­sity, said.

Ev­ery morn­ing, Maj Lang­lands would have por­ridge, poached eggs and two cups of tea and he paid him­self just $300 a month so the school was as well-funded as pos­si­ble.

The BBC re­ported that, on his re­tire­ment, for­mer pupils came to­gether to en­sure he was housed in a cot­tage at Aitchi­son, where he lived un­til his death on Jan­uary 2.

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