Join our crusade to educate all

7th April 2006 at 01:00
Governments and schools all have a part to play in ensuring that every child on the planet can go to school, writes Chancellor Gordon Brown

In 2005 Make Poverty History forced governments to make promises on aid. In 2006 we must turn promises into action. And teachers, schools and education must be at the heart of this action.

The greatest promise of all was that, by 2015, every child would be able to go to school. That is why I welcome the TES Make the Link campaign, encouraging and rewarding more and better links between schools in Britain and across the world - sharing teacher expertise, raising awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, and taking forward global citizenship work.

And it is also why, on Monday, Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, and I will travel to Mozambique to join President Mandela and Graca Machel as they launch a unique movement - to turn promises on education into reality, school by school, class by class and child by child.

For while the promise of Gleneagles was education for all, today 100 million of the world's children do not go to school. Even if they start attending school, half of Africa's children will never finish primary schooling. And most who lose out are girls - denied the most basic chance to realise their potential.

Mozambique illustrates the problem with one million children unable to go to school - and a teacher-pupil ratio of one to 74 for those who can, not least because thousands of teachers are dying of Aids. Each year in Africa a million children lose their teacher to Aids.

So the new call to action is a call for people power, teacher power and for pupil power to make this change.

It is a movement to bring developing and developed countries closer - to link schools to schools, teachers to teachers, churches to churches, faith groups to faith groups and communities to communities.

I am astonished at the large number of school-to-school link-ups that already exist between Britain and Africa. I visited a school in London linked to Kenya, where teacher exchanges, pen pal letters and pupil visits bring home to British pupils what it is like to live in Africa.

Today, through Department for International Development global school partnerships, there are 370 British schools linked with Africa and Asia.

The Global Gateway portal has a database of more than 6,000 schools wanting to form partnerships with other schools around the world. More than 1,800 schools have joined BBC World Class to link with schools in Africa. VSO is supporting education across Africa by recruiting experienced British teachers to share skills with local teachers and pupils, and through returned volunteers working along with the British Council to link schools in the UK with those in Africa. Comic Relief works with 20,000 UK schools, alongside ActionAid and Oxfam and other partners of the Global Campaign for Education in the UK, helping children speak up for those who do not go to school.

So what should we do now to build on this? Over the next 18 months we must urge more schools, and then colleges and universities, to join the crusade for education. So next week Hilary Benn and I will announce new funds for more school links - with grants for teachers to visit Africa, and more money to underwrite exchanges between schools. This will create new opportunities to join the hundreds of schools, thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of pupils across Britain linking up with schools across Africa, sharing expertise, raising awareness and allowing every school in Britain to play its part in ensuring that all the world's children can go to school.

And as thousands of people across Britain and other developed countries join this crusade, governments must match their promises from last year with action today. As many as 60 countries will not achieve education for all by 2015 under current plans. So next week we will set aside new money to enable African countries and others to set out their 10-year plans to deliver the Millennium Development Goals.

And later this month, in Washington, as the IMF and World Bank meet, and in St Petersburg in June as G7 finance ministers meet, we will urge the expansion of the Education For All Fast Track Initiative to support more countries to put in place more ambitious 10-year plans. The promise of a little more aid for a year or two is not enough. It will not allow countries to plan to build a new generation of schools or to train and pay a new generation of teachers. Without increased long-term predictable funding, the poorest countries will not be able to abolish fees and provide universal schooling.

So throughout 2006 and 2007 Education for All should not just be a slogan.

It should become a global cause around which the world can unite that affirms our dignity as human beings - that no matter their birth or background, every child in every part of the world should have the chance to realise their potential, to bridge the gap between what they are and what they have it in themselves to become, and so to enrich the world.

The history of our world so far is the story of the triumph of the human spirit but also of the criminal waste of the human potential of millions.

We know what quality education can achieve. Let us become the first generation to develop the potential of not just some but all our children.

We can afford it. And we cannot afford not to do it.

FE Focus 1 and 2

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