We can be ambitious for Africa

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
It was entirely predictable that Jack McConnell's critics would pour scorn on what they saw as his grandstanding on the world stage during his Malawi visit last week. Every national leader who struts abroad is seen as seeking the adulation overseas they are denied at home. The additional critique of Scotland's First Minister is just that: he is merely Scotland's First Minister and therefore ought not to be dabbling in matters which are the responsibility of Whitehall ministeries. We wonder what David Livingstone and his fellow travellers, so to speak, would have made of such insularity.

From the point of view of Malawi, and other states in a similar dire state, it is of little significance that Mr McConnell represents a constitutional arrangement which denies him responsibility for foreign affairs or overseas development. The First Minister was well aware of the limitations not just of his office in these foreign fields, but of the contribution he and Scotland can make. His ambitions are carefully targeted, as they should be, and there was little doubt in the minds of the entourage and media who accompanied him that a little does indeed go a long way.

Although the scale of what is required to bring equity to one small country, never mind an entire continent, is immense, a small country can do small things that will make a difference - like putting roofs on classrooms and training teachers (page nine). The mantra of "think globally, act locally" was never more apposite.

The TES and TESS have recognised this essential truth by mounting our own contribution. In partnership with the British Council and sponsor HSBC, we have launched a pound;21,000 Make the Link award which we hope will encourage pupils and students to become active global citizens by developing links with schools in other countries. The awards will also focus on the rich potential for innovative teaching and learning projects right across the curriculum, with prizes of up to pound;5,000 for the best scheme.

We don't know if pupils will heed Sir Bob Geldof's call, in an interview with The TES last week, to take time off school and head for Edinburgh to call on the G8 world leaders to "make poverty history", but we have no doubt pupils and teachers are already on-message.

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