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Work skills training for Beslan children

RUSSIA

Victims of the Beslan school tragedy and other children from the North Caucasus are to benefit from a pound;1 million British-backed education and training initiative, Bill Rammell, the foreign office minister responsible for Russia, announced on Monday in Moscow.

The money - more than three times the amount the British Council spends annually in Russia - will allow children to learn English and acquire workplace skills. These opportunities have been denied them by the civil war in Chechnya and violence such as last September's terrorist attack in Beslan where more than 330 children and teachers died.

The North Caucasus Education Initiative will build on the British Council's network of offices and experts in Russia, enabling partnerships to be built both in the North Caucasus and between British educational institutions and the region.

"The project will aim to help as many young people as possible through English-language training, vocational training, drama and sports," Mr Rammell said.

Michael Barber, head of the Prime Minister's delivery unit, has been working closely with the British Council in Russia on educational projects.

He said the scheme - which should be working by the end of the year - had been prompted by a desire to contribute something following last year's "horrific" events in Beslan.

"Working through the British Council, and with other agencies, we aim to bring sustainability to a project designed for the long term," said Professor Barber. "Russian partnerships are essential to the project, allowing skills transfer to be done in the region, in addition to opportunities for teachers and young people from the North Caucasus to travel to Britain."

Giving young people the skills to find or create jobs was a key to ending the cycle of deprivation and violence in the region, Professor Barber added.

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