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Aid aimed at war-torn countries

Government earmarks #163;300 million for educational investment in 'conflict-affected and fragile' areas ahead of international conference

Government earmarks #163;300 million for educational investment in 'conflict-affected and fragile' areas ahead of international conference

The UK is to target improving the education of children in war-torn countries, under a new strategy announced this week.

The focus will result in half the Government's bilateral education aid being spent on children in "conflict-affected and fragile" states, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.

The department's investment in education in developing countries will top #163;1 billion for the first time next year.

Half of its #163;600 million bilateral investment in education will go to countries affected by conflicts, including Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eight million children are expected to benefit.

It will also give around #163;400 million to organisations such as the World Bank and the European Commission.

The plan comes ahead of a major international conference of development experts, organised by DfID, to look at how to get the Millennium Development Goals on track. The goals - agreed by developed countries 10 years ago - include one to ensure that all children receive at least a primary education by 2015.

DfID's Learning for All strategy pledges to build 15,000 new classrooms in a year, train 130,000 teachers and support more than 200 universities in Africa and Asia.

As well as getting more children into school, work will also be undertaken to improve the quality of education. The aim is to increase the ratio of children able to read after two years of schooling from one in 10 now, to half by 2015.

Another key focus will be encouraging more women to train as teachers. There will be improvements to school sanitation, the lack of which has been a barrier to girls getting an education, according to DfID.

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, said: "This new strategy marks a ground-breaking moment for the UK's effort to ensure every child goes to school.

"But it goes beyond just getting children into school. It sets out how we will help provide a well-rounded education to millions of children and young people, securing their future employment and helping them to be better off than their parents."

Marie Staunton, chief executive of Plan UK, a child-centred community development organisation, said: "We're delighted DFID has heeded our call for measures to help the world's poorest girls finish school."

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