Brown pledges $15bn for schools plan

Gordon Brown will launch a $15bn crusade to end the “scandal” of the 100 million children worldwide who are denied the chance to go to school.

He will commit Britain to spend $1.5bn (£860m) a year on Third World education in a 10-year spending programme that fulfils one of the commitments to aid made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles last year.

Mr Brown, who arrives in Mozambique this morning, will ask the world’s richest nations to “keep their promises” from the summit and commit $8.5bn a year to fund a drive to give every child the right to a free education within a decade.

He makes the point that the money would represent just 2p a day for each person in the world’s richest countries.

Aid agencies welcomed the announcement but warned that “the jury is still out” on whether international promises of aid at Gleneagles would be turned into hard cash. Mr Brown will also outline plans for a major programme to link British schools with their counterparts in Africa when he launches the international drive for education with the former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Speaking before the trip, Mr Brown said the G8 nations needed to demonstrate results on the ground after agreements to increase aid by $50bn (£29bn) a year and cancel billions of pounds in debt at last year’s Gleneagles summit.

Campaigners who, at the time, branded the summit a “non-event”, have pointed out that the US has already expressed cold feet about doubling aid to Africa by 2010. But Mr Brown said he believed the millennium goal of offering primary education to all by 2015 was achievable. “This is about convincing people that when you make a promise you keep it,” he said. “There is no technical reason why we cannot deliver education for every child. There’s no reason that prevents us doing that because the cost of education for a single child is not as huge as people think.”

Mr Brown said it was “no longer acceptable” that fewer than two-thirds of children in Africa finished primary education. More than 100 million children around the world did not enjoy the kind of full-time primary education taken for granted in Britain.

He added: “It is one of the world’s greatest scandals that even today 100 million children do not go to school, denied one of the most basic rights of all: the right to education. And most who lose out are girls, denied the most basic right to reach their potential.”

The $1.5bn-a-year funding confirmed by Mr Brown represents Britain’s share of the cash for education pledged by the G8 at Gleneagles. It is a four-fold increase on Britain’s current annual aid spending on education of £400m and is the largest allocation so far from the planned increase in spending on the Third World announced last year to bring British aid budgets up to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013. G8 nations pledged at Gleneagles to spend $100bn (£58bn) over 10 years to give primary education to all.

Mr Brown said he was talking to European nations, the US and other G8 members to persuade them to follow Britain’s example.

He will travel to New York and Washington this month for talks and pledged to get the issue on the table at the G8 summit in Russia this summer. He said he was confident wealthy nations would deliver on their Gleneagles pledges.

Jo Leadbeater, Oxfam’s head of policy, said: “We are obviously pleased at the leadership of the Chancellor on this but the key test is going to be whether this can be taken on by the G8, the World Bank and the IMF to make the promise of $50bn extra aid by 2010 produce a real difference on the ground.”

The deal will cover all developing countries, but Africa bears the brunt of the schooling crisis. Recent estimates from Unesco show that only 58 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa attend primary schooling, leaving more than 44 million out of school. UN estimates suggest that there is a shortage of nearly two million schoolteachers around the world, while up to 20 million new teachers will be needed by 2015 because of population increases and the ravages of Aids.

The plan focuses on teacher training, building programmes and other schemes designed to provide long-term educational improvements in countries where teacher shortages are acute partly because of the spread of Aids. Developing nations will be invited to submit 10-year plans, which will be assessed by international experts before funding is released.

Mr Brown spent the weekend in Madrid and Vienna attempting to win support for his education proposals from leaders of the European Union, UN agencies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

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