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» 03 Nov 2008

Born inauspiciously in the Channel Islands on July 10th 1936, Alan left with his mother at the age of 6 months never to look back. Little did he know that over the course of his lifetime he would travel much of the world, help educate thousands of children, become an expert on two extinct birds and eventually settle on another small island, this one in the Indian Ocean some six thousand miles from where he was born – here in Mauritius.

Alan’s mother was a nurse, a valuable profession at the best of times and invaluable during World War Two, which dominated Alan’s early childhood. From the age of two he was boarded out to care facilities while his mother lived and worked in the hospital at Teignmouth, Devon, in Southern England. Some of his earliest memories are of bombs exploding in the distance, but these are tempered by pleasant memories of visiting his grandparents in Derby during the holidays.

From the age of 11 to 17 Alan was a pupil at the Queen Elizabeth’s school in Crediton, Devon. A rare “Democratic” school where the boys governed themselves in a structure not dissimilar to the parliament structure of Britain itself. Alan’s experiences there are worthy of an entire book and a few sentences cannot possibly do it justice. Suffice it to say that as “Under-minister of Agriculture” and later “Minister of Home Affairs” Alan gained valuable experience in responsibility and management that was to stand him in good stead for the rest of his life.

After leaving school Alan did nine months as a Farm Pupil before going to agricultural college to do a two year National Diploma in Poultry Husbandry. During this period he attained a NCR (National Certificate in Rabbit Husbandry) and BBKA (Certificate in Bee Keeping Husbandry) but left before completing the main part of the course, to his mother’s chagrin.

Ten weeks later it was time for National Service which Alan did with the Royal Army Medical Corp. Two years later and Alan found himself cutting nettles in the rain, on a farm in Teignmouth, for a grumpy old pastor, for two pounds fifty per week. Needless to say he quit.

Young Alan still hadn’t found his vocation in life, but fate drew him onwards. A job with the Teignmouth Urban District Council saw him driving tractors on the seafront and beach, putting up huts & working on pedal boats. This brought him into contact with a student teacher called Andy Wood who suggested that Alan also try teaching.

On July 10 1958, precisely twenty two years after his birth, Alan attended an interview at Kesteven Teacher Training College in Lincolnshire. With five O-levels he would be the least qualified student there, but as luck would have it the Principal was keen on rugby and the rugby captain needed a new wing-three-quarter. Alan fitted the bill and graduated two years later with a Distinction in teaching practice. Thus began a career in teaching which was to span for 50 years from the UK and Africa to the South Pacific.  
From 1960 to 1966 Alan was a primary school teacher in Derby, England and also achieved a Diploma in Child Drama. He married and had two children and at age 30 began work for the ODA (Overseas Development Administration which later became DfID (Department for International Development) which sparked a wanderlust which was to last much of his life.

His first ODA assignment was in Kenya where he was quickly promoted from primary school teacher to teacher trainer & lecturer in science, maths, physical education and drama. He also had his third child while in Kenya and adopted one cow and a clutch of chickens.

1969 saw Alan return to the land of his forefathers, Derbyshire, where he became headmaster of Clifton Primary School. What became of the cow and chickens? One can only guess.

The travelling itch struck again in 1973 and this time Malawi was the destination. Alan arrived there just as Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda banned New Mathematics, so instead of lecturing in New Mathematics Alan became Officer in Charge of Teacher Upgrading.

By this time Alan was doing jobs reserved for graduates and so was advised by the ODA to do a degree. To this end he became a student at Birmingham University at the tender age of 38, reading a B.Phil degree in Child Psychology.

Next, Alan became lecturer of Educational Psychology and Sociology at St. Luke’s Teacher Training College at the University of Exeter. Following that post, Alan first came to Mauritius lecturing at the College of Higher Education and running educational workshops. It was also in Mauritius that he met and married his wife Sara.

The travelling continued as did Alan’s love for Africa. The next decade saw him working in Botswana, the Seychelles, Zambia, UK, and briefly in Sierra Leone, followed by two years on the beautiful island of Vanuatu, situated in the South Pacific.

But Africa beckoned yet again; in the Kenyan Rift Valley Alan trained school inspectors and advisory teachers, and while in Swaziland he also trained school inspectors in the teaching of primary mathematics and science. Indeed, maths and science has been a consistent theme throughout most of Alan’s life and he has published many textbooks and guides on how the subject should be taught at the primary level.

In 1999, while applying for work in Malawi, Alan was informed by DfID that he was over the age limit, being over 60. Thus began part two of the Life & Times of Alan Grihault and a journey into the as yet unexplored arena of his creativity...

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