A team of staff and students from the University of Leeds & Leeds Trinity University have just returned from South Africa, following the successful completion of a four-week sport development project. The Gryphons Abroad programme sees staff and students deployed to deliver cycling, sport and leadership in schools in the Nkandla region. 

Empowering youth through cycling initiatives

Through partnership work with KZN Cycling and the Bambisanani Partnership the team successfully engaged over 2000 young people. The project consisted of two key elements: cycling and sports leadership. KZN Cycling run clinics in schools in the region year-round via a permanent ‘cycling hub’ positioned in the heart of the rural communities. Mzamo Khoza, now a a cycling development officer for KZN Cycling, is a former pupil of Mnyakanya High School who undertook a cycling course led by University of Leeds staff and students back in 2016.  

Mzamo Khoza, Cycling Development Coordinator for KZN Cycling commented:

Working alongside the team was more than amazing because everyone was so focused on the task in hand whilst also having fun together in the process.

Volunteers helping kids ride bikes

Four weeks were spent teaching cycling in seven primary and secondary schools. Children were taught the basics of balancing and steering before progressing to pedaling. Whilst more experienced riders worked on their handling and control to prepare them for road cycling and races. Students also taught basic bike maintenance to all pupils.  

Volunteer teaching bike mechanics to school kids

The fourth week was spent delivering a sport & leadership festival for four primary schools in the township of Eshowe. The festival, hosted at Gratton College saw 150 grade 7’s from multiple primary schools come together to participate in a range of sessions. Leeds students delivered leadership sessions culminating in pupils designing and delivering their own games and activities for their peers. A first experience of leadership for many. Alongside this they participated in sports including football, netball and rounders. As well as classroom sessions designed by students and based on their own studies at home.

Gryphons Abroad impact on students

Parallel to the impact on children, the project also impacts positively on Leeds students. They have the opportunity to develop their practical skills, broaden their horizons and learn more about different cultures. Students were invited to learn basic Zulu as well as participate in traditional singing and dancing in almost every school visited on the trip!  

Volunteer helping school kid ride a bike

The project was led by Sport & Physical Activity staff members Andy Lockwood, Suzzi Garnett & Lauren Havercroft along with Ammarah Pandor from Leeds Trinity. The six students were Connor Bull, Christian Lewis, Lucy Hughes, Rachel Barton, Rhiannah McCourt & Ellen Slack. 

Connor Bull, University of Leeds Sport Science student and Gryphons Abroad 2023 team member said:

The Gryphons Abroad project has been a real highlight of my time at university. The project taught me so much about myself both personally & professionally and allowed me to explore life in a completely different culture. I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment and would strongly recommend the project to anyone ready for a challenge!

Andrew Lockwood, Assistant Head of Sport & Bambisanani trustee said:

Our work with KZN Cycling has enabled us to bring the cycling project to more schools and more pupils in the region. It has been a very special year for staff and students visiting new places and meeting new people with the support of Mzamo. The journey of Mzamo himself clearly demonstrates the long-term impact cycling can have on individuals. Alongside this our skills auditing also evidences the clear impact on our graduates who measured improvements of up to 39% in all ten of the identified skill areas.

Recruitment for students to join the 2024 Gryphons Abroad team will open in autumn. You can read more about the Gryphons Abroad programme here.