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Bunk aid planned to save Africa

The founder of Live Aid is urging all teachers and pupils to lobby G8 leaders. Brendan O'Malley reports

Sir Bob Geldof is urging pupils and teachers to bunk off school for two days to lobby international leaders attending the G8 conference for wealthy nations, in Edinburgh.

As The TES announced a new pound;21,000 award scheme for schools that make links with pupils around the world, the founder of Live Aid said: "I want every school to decamp on July 5.

"I want the teachers to lead the kids to Edinburgh. I want to see all their buses, their blazers and their flags up there demanding that they tear down trade barriers to African farmers' goods and write off the continent's international debt. They should shout: 'Do this now...'."

The pop star-turned-entrepreneur said it would be an immense moment of "nudge nudge wink wink" civil disobedience. "I say, what's more important, learning geometry or remembering these two days all your life because you conceivably helped tip the world a little in favour of the weak?"

He urged schools to respond to The TES's Make the Link campaign by forging lasting partnerships with schools in Africa.

This week, The TESstepped up its campaign, announcing a new awards scheme with prizes of up to pound;5,000.

The awards, sponsored by the HSBC bank and supported by the British Council, encourage schools to carry out joint class projects and share teacher expertise with the aim of ensuring that both schools in the link exchange improve (see box below).

"We need to have a to-ing and fro-ing between our idea of what the world is and theirs," said Mr Geldof. "And it all starts with twinning."

He also pressed schools to back an international charity's Send My Friend to School campaign, which calls on politicians to fund education for the 100 million children not in school.

"One hundred million kids in the world don't go to school, two-thirds of them are girls and 46 million of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. I mean kids in school in the UK think 'Lucky them'. They're not. They're fucked.

Yet they are so profoundly desperate to learn," he said.

"Poverty in Africa is the greatest moral problem facing us in the 21st century. That's why teachers should teach about it."

He knows the value of a good teacher. A succession of English teachers got him into poetry.

The former Boomtown Rats singer raised pound;100 million to tackle famine through the Band Aid movement 20 years ago.

He praised the British Government for offering a radical plan to put debt, aid and trade measures for Africa at the top of the agenda, along with climate change, when the G8 leaders meet on July 6 to 8 under Tony Blair's chairmanship.

But he called on schools to turn up the heat on the G8 leaders by lobbying them.

"Education is the interface between tradition and modernity. You must learn the language the world is speaking."

leader 22 www.commissionforafrica.orgSchools version and posters: is a short version of an exclusive interview which will appear in The TES's special supplement Global Citizenship: the G8, on June 10

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