Former Port Vale star returns to school to help African children
FORMER Port Vale star Mark Bright returned to his old school to pick up dictionaries for children in Gambia.
WORTHY CAUSE: Mark Bright visits the Mandaur Lower Basic School in Gambia.
The BBC sports pundit began forging links with Gambia when he visited his relatives there in 1996.
He was fostered and his father was from Gambia and his mother from Stoke-on-Trent.
Since then he has focused on helping Mandaur Lower Basic School, in Mandaur village.
He said: "My dad's from Gambia but I never really knew him before he died so I went to find his side of the family.
"I have lots of aunts and uncles and it really helped me to find my roots. I love going there. Gambia is a wonderful holiday destination. I helped a friend with a charity golf project and once that was finished I wanted to do more so I asked for a school to help.
"I have visited Mandaur Lower Basic School and it is so remote and isolated.
"The first delivery I sent to the school was a thousand exercise books and pens and pencils about two years ago.
"Since then the teachers have been in touch again because they are desperate for dictionaries and maths equipment. With the help of Maryhill High, I am now able to send them."
Mark, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday, Crystal Palace and Charlton, got in touch with Maryhill's assistant headteacher Jan Matthews, who offered to support him.
The pupils have held non-uniform days to raise money for the project and Mark has ordered the supplies through the school.
He bought 100 dictionaries, maths charts for the walls, alphabet learning equipment and sports kits.
"When I left school I went to work for a local hydraulics company. It was easier for me because I was able to fall back on my football but now that I've finished playing I have to fall back on my school skills again. It makes you realise how important basic education really is."
Mrs Matthews said: "Mark was obviously sports mad when he was at school and he fell foul of a few of my colleagues, but he was a gentleman.
"He wasn't particularly interested in academic work at that age. But he went on to achieve so much and we have always been very proud of him.
"Helping him support the school in Gambia gives us a chance to teach our pupils more about global citizenship and to show them there is another side to life."
Vanessa Maxfield, aged 12, from Kidsgrove, said: "We don't realise how bad Mandaur school really is. They have no electricity and Mark's efforts to try to help them are going to make a real difference.
"The equipment we're sending to the school is really impressive. The rounders bats are better than the ones we use in school."