Our Story

Last updated: 22/06/2019

In 2006 the Bambisanani Partnership emerged from a British Council/Youth Sport Trust initiative linking UK and South African Schools through physical education and sport. The link between St. Mary’s High School in Leeds and Mnyakanya High School, which serves one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most deprived rural communities, went on to become embedded in the lives of both schools, inspiring young people in many areas of the curriculum through joint learning activities.

Bambisanani is a Zulu word meaning ‘working hand in hand’ and aptly describes the work and vision of this inspirational partnership that uses sport as a catalyst to promote education, health, global citizenship and leadership. 

Now a multi-award winning charity, the pioneering partnership has gained international acclaim for its work. Despite the most challenging of circumstances this project has not only been sustained it has grown and expanded to involve other schools and indeed universities.

Significantly, the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University are now both heavily involved in the partnership and like St. Mary’s School regularly have students out in South Africa to extend and develop the partnerships various programmes, including ‘Leadership Through Sport’, ‘Literacy Through Sport’ and ‘Cycling For Success’.

A fundamental aim of the partnership has been to create genuine ‘two way’ learning between both countries with a key focus on ‘working together and learning together’. The Bambisanani story is testimony of the power of sport to change lives and has served as a reminder to many just why they became a teacher.

Photo: Sports Festival at Mnyakanya High School

Photo: The road to Mnyakanya High School

“The Bambisanani Partnership represents a truly authentic approach to educating children about health, global citizenship and leadership. St. Mary’s School, Menston, the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University should be applauded for creating and developing this inspiring project which uses sport to positively connect pupils from different cultures. It is a clear win-win situation innovation with boundless benefits for students in the UK as well as those in a deprived region of South Africa. The partnership clearly has the power to change lives for the good and develop long-standing friendships across nations. Many schools around the world would benefit from knowing more about this partnership and adopting similar innovative approaches to genuinely enhancing young people’s lives.”
— Dr Jo Harris, Loughborough University

Photo: Playing football in 2006 taken by David Geldart when he first visited Nkandla

Photo: At the annual Sports Festival

“Much of our life in the UK has become obsessed with materialism and ‘celebrity’. We have lost touch with things that really matter. My visit to South Africa has given me a much more meaningful perspective on life.”
— UK student
“We have worked together…people of different colours, countries, religions and cultures…we have proved it can be done.”
— South African student

“Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else can. Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It breaks down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.”
— Nelson Mandela

Photo: Pupils from both schools working together


Photo: Football at Mnyakanya High School

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
— Nelson Mandela

Please see links below to four critically acclaimed books by David Geldart that chronicle the remarkable journey and work of this partnership:

Bambisanani: The First Five Years

Bambisanani 2012: Faster, Higher, Stronger

Bambisanani: The Power of Sport

Bambisanani: Ten Years of Working Together and Learning Together

Also see Bambisanani in Numbers and Bambisanani Articles


Photo: At the annual Reading Festival

Photo: Sports Leader from Mnyakanya High School

Photo: Reading together

Artwork by a Mnyakanya High School student

Artwork by a St. Mary's Menston student

Photo: Reading together at Ntolwante Primary School

Photo: Meeting HRH Prince William in 2013

Photo: St. Mary's students visiting the Zulufadder orphanage

Photo: Celebrating reading