Can they end poverty?

10th June 2005 at 01:00
One of my first jobs was covering the Ethiopian famine in 1985. I saw thousands of Tigrayan refugees arrive at the desert camps in Sudan each day in open trucks. Many children had bellies distended with hunger, some appeared skeletal and one had a dried broken bone sticking out of his back.

Daily a dozen or so died and were carried in a dust-coloured cloth to a hole in the ground by their thin, grieving parents.

It felt like I was reliving the Irish famine in a baking hot desert. I wondered how this could happen in the modern world and how a recurrence could be averted.

Famines have kept coming since, and poverty remains the scourge of Africa.

Tony Blair is trying to find answers by putting action on debt and aid, along with climate change, top of the agenda for the G8 group of wealthy nations.

The occasion offers schools a chance to promote understanding of how the powerful countries influence the world - how many adults can honestly say they know what the G8 does? - and the role we can play in making it a fairer, environmentally sustainable place.

Since 1997 the Departments for Education and International Development have made laudable steps to promote international understanding: they have put citizenship on the curriculum, increased funding for development education, and promoted international study visits and school links. But two areas need further consideration. One is to how to provide more money for reciprocal study visits, to help schools in poor countries send their teachers here. This is one way UK schools can help the development of schools in Africa. The other is how to ensure schools here focus on climate change. MPs have highlighted a "fundamental lack of commitment" to such issues in our schools. This urgently needs to be addressed.

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