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Britain helps send 3.5 million more children to school

Britain will help pay for an extra 3.5 million of the world’s poorest children - half of them girls – to get a decent education, in a major global literacy drive.

As richer countries pull out their funding en masse, poor countries are seeing massive shortfalls in education.

Burkina Faso, for instance, where a third of children don’t go to school, lost more than half its education aid money when five countries slashed their aid.

Britain this week joined 16 other countries to back the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and help it hit its goal to raise literacy in seven and eight year-olds by a halve in the countries it works in.

"Good education is vital to beating poverty - it transforms lives and countries,” said Britain’s Development Minister Stephen O’Brien at the Partnership’s funding drive in Copenhagen.

Top of the GPE’s list of priorities is enrolling 3.5 million children in primary school in countries such as Mali, where 94 per cent of children that age can’t read a word of the country’s official language and Gambia, where 54 per cent of six to seven year-olds can’t read a single word.

Other aims to help get seven million up-to-date textbooks into classrooms and train more than 84,000 new teachers with the latest skills.

“This is about so much more than counting heads, said Mr O’Brien. “It is about ensuring children finish school with an education which will help them build a future for their families.”

“Simply put, nothing has greater impact on reducing poverty than education,” said GPE chair Carol Bellamy, this week. “And especially girls’ education. Education saves lives as surely as vaccinations and clean water do.

“Children who receive an education earn more as adults and are able to provide a higher quality of life for their families and communities; the GDP of a developing country increases steadily when all children are educated. And children in fragile states are less likely to engage in violent conflict if they receive an education. The facts are very clear – we cannot break the cycle of poverty without education.

The UK promised the GPE up to £150 million over three years - £50 million per year. In two years’ time this pledge will be reviewed to weigh up whether the results justify an increase, a decrease or to maintain the keep the funding at the same amount.

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