Just three years after world leaders pledged to ensure that every child is offered a good quality primary education by 2015, the issue was virtually wiped off the agenda at the G8 summit in Evian, France, this week by rich countries' concerns about global security.
Campaigners complained that while President Bush had been able to demand $75 billion (pound;46bn) from US Congress for the war against Iraq, G8 leaders had lost sight of the "other war" against poverty, particularly in Africa.
"The G8 are so far behind their rhetoric it's not funny," said Phil Twyford, Oxfam's Washington-based director of advocacy, who was an observer at Evian. "There's been zero for Africa on development issues like education."
He said the political climate at Evian had been so poisoned by the war that it had been difficult for the US and Europe to come together on any proposal.
Early last year the G8 approved a fast track initiative, led by the World Bank, to kickstart the drive for education in any country committed to the necessary reforms and promised a "substantial increase" in aid for education. It also agreed an Action Plan for Africa.
But while Britain has a good record on bilateral education aid, a report by charity ActionAid said G8 countries are committing a "dismal" $270m (pound;166m) a year to basic education in Africa - less than the cost of last year's G8 summit and only 15 per cent of the additional aid needed annually to reach the 2015 goal there.