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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
A teacher's view of the camps
Max Grantham with an Afghan family
Max Grantham left his work and friends with reluctance
By BBC News Online's Angela Harrison

Max Grantham is having trouble adjusting to life in north Devon - it is just a week since he was among Afghan refugees in camps in Pakistan, helping to bring some basic education to Afghan children.

The 62-year-old teacher left his voluntary work in the region with reluctance when he thought the lives of the Afghans he was working with might get more difficult because of his presence.

He had been advising on radio education programmes being made through funding from UNICEF and other charities and being broadcast by the BBC's World Service.

He was the only foreigner among a group of Afghan writers and producers who made education programmes which go out twice a day, six days a week, across Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees in a makeshift school
Afghan girls have the chance of education in the refugee camps in Pakistan
"There is virtually no formal education in Afghanistan, except for a few schools run by non-governmental organisations.

"There are a few religious schools for boys, which is not education as we imagine it, so these programmes were very important," he said.

"The children in the camps in Pakistan were educationally, much better off, because schools were set up there, in tents.

"They sit on the floor and as the camps and schools develop, there are carpets and they sit cross-legged with minimal materials - but they really listen and are very keen to learn. It's a real joy."

Max Grantham was the deputy head-teacher of the primary school in his home-town of South Molton, North Devon until 1997 and taught for more than 20 years altogether.

Jaluzai refugee camp, Pakistan
Max Grantham often visited the refugee camps
The small market town is a world away from the squalor of the refugee camps.

"At one camp, Jaluzai, conditions were appalling," he said .

"The shelters - you could not call them tents - were strung together and you have refuse, human waste, and water all mixed together."

He was one of 20 people working with Voluntary Services Overseas who were flown home from Pakistan as tensions in the region increased.

He is finding it hard to adjust to returning to Britain.

"It's very emotional to be back, after leaving my friends behind.

"I didn't want to stay there as a target and make my friends less safe - but I want to go back as soon as I possibly can."

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