- Major Geoffrey Langlands mounted a coup to unseat Carey Schofield
- She had been headmistress at Langlands School in Chitral, Pakistan
- Miss Schofield, 61, learned of ousting when her visa was not renewed
- Now she vows to return to her position despite his attempts
By Amy Oliver for The Mail on Sunday
Overlooking a sleepy valley in a remote area of the Hindu Kush, Langlands School is famous as the best in Pakistan.
But the peace has been shattered after a 97-year-old former British Army officer launched an astonishing move to oust the head teacher who he nominated as his successor.
Major Geoffrey Langlands, the last survivor of the Raj, mounted a coup to unseat Carey Schofield, 61, from the school in Chitral that bears his name. She only found out about his action when she returned to Britain and was surprised to discover her visa renewal had been inexplicably delayed.
Power play: Former school head Major Geoffrey Langlands, pictured above at his retirement in 2013
Last week, it appeared the Major had succeeded in his mission – with the help of some of his former pupils – after accusing Miss Schofield of upsetting parents and teachers with her rigorous management style. There was ‘no question of her coming back’ he said in an interview.
But now Miss Schofield, who said the pupils behaved like the cast of St Trinian’s when she first took charge, has told The Mail On Sunday she has no intention of standing aside and will return to Chitral as soon as possible.
She said: ‘Major Langlands has no power to sack me. I’m not at war with anybody. The coup was presented as having been successful but actually it wasn’t.
‘I am delighted by the support I have received not only from the governors but also from the teachers, the parents and the pupils for me to return and get on with the job.
‘It is very frustrating. This term, for example, for the first time in the senior girls school we had a school play going. It doesn’t sound like much but it was a groundbreaking event in our district. Much bigger than this joke attempt at a coup. But because I was stuck here, I didn’t see it and that’s really heartbreaking.’
It is a tale that evokes the days of the Raj and a lost empire.
Langlands, who is known as Pakistan’s Mr Chips – after the book about a beloved teacher – had been the principal of the school for more than two decades until Miss Schofield took charge in 2013 when he decided to step down.
The Major, who has taken tea with Princess Diana, enjoys celebrity status in Pakistan. He came to British India in 1944 during the last years of the Raj, before going on to teach cricketer Imran Khan and many of Pakistan’s future rulers at Aitchison college, known as the Eton of Pakistan.
Visa delays: Headteacher Carey Schofield in London last week
He joined Langlands, then Sayurj Public School, in 1989. Under his tenure, the school projected a reputation for excellence. But Miss Schofield says that was a ‘myth’.
Speaking near her one-bedroom flat in Chelsea, she said: ‘The legend Major Langlands so successfully created was of the old military man who taught in England before the Second World War. That’s what people thought they were getting. In reality it was worse than any Pakistani school. The legend was built on sand.
‘There was no connection at all between the myth he was peddling and the education he was giving. The school was in a parlous state. School fees used to be collected in cash. There were widespread allegations of theft. Teachers were not always paid.
‘The school was like St Trinian’s. The children were not turning up and left whenever they wanted. Some teachers didn’t come to school and if they did would sit drinking tea while the classes rampaged. There was no discipline. We’ve had to restore order on every front.’
Born in Surrey, Miss Schofield read English at Cambridge before becoming a foreign correspondent. She has written several books, including one about Pakistan’s army.
She says she drew on her experience as a school governor in Britain to transform Langlands. The school, founded in 1988 by local deputy commissioner Javed Majeed, now provides education for almost 1,000 girls and boys aged from four to 18. Under Miss Schofield, the bank now handles all fees, the school operates fully in English, students wear uniform and prospective pupils must sit an entrance exam. Earlier this year, she sacked eight of the school’s 54 teachers who were under performing.
‘In Pakistan it is culturally not the norm to be sacked,’ Miss Schofield says. ‘But Imran Khan’s government has said government schools will get rid of people who can’t perform and he’s right.’ All eight sacked teachers are taking the school to court for breach of their fundamental rights.
It is also suspected some contacted the Major for help.
When Miss Schofield flew to London last month, Langlands travelled to Chitral and attempted to seize control of the school. He also urged Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar – a former pupil of his – not to renew Miss Schofield’s visa.
Nearly 200 parents and virtually all of the staff have signed petitions calling for the Major’s orders to be ignored.
‘The visa hasn’t been refused,’ Miss Schofield said. ‘It just hasn’t been granted yet.’ Langlands last night told the MoS: ‘I have been working in Pakistan for 71 years and everyone has been satisfied with everything that I have done.
‘The real reason the lady doesn’t like me is because I’ve got too much support. I hope all will turn out well for the school but that cannot be with the presence of the lady.’