Education, Education, Education but not for them
August 12, 2010 § 1 Comment
Credit to David Cameron and the upper echelons of the Conservatives in backing 0.7% aid commitments left by Labour. It was an easy cut to make and supporting development overseas runs against many of the basic instincts of high toryism. It sits on the untouchable shelf along with health as the issues that are not having to keep returning to the treasury with evidence of bloody cuts.
On education, DFID have been excellent in supporting the 1GOAL campaign and setting standards in training some 100,000 teachers and paying for 5 million children to go to school every day. Last month Andrew Mitchell said; “Making sure education is no longer a privilege for some but a reality for all would truly be a legacy from the World Cup to be proud of.” It was all looking very good until today a leaked document from DFID suggested the opposite could be about to happen.
Education and Britain’s commitment to get an extra 8 million children into school has been deprioritised as has its pledges to increase the amount of clean water to those who drink filthy water from rivers, puddles and pits. While some would argue that commitments to reduce road traffic incidents are right to review. I am big supporter of doing all we can to reduce disease and maternal health but fighting poverty needs to be holistic and reducing DFID to being the Department for Malaria and Mums – the proposed two priority issues of DFID – is making it very niche.
This announcement sneaked out through the leftwing blog, LeftFootForward and was shared by a disgruntled member of DFID staff annoyed at the new direction the department was taking. Education doesn’t get effected by ideology in the same way that health systems do with both left and right agreeing that the basic right of access to education should apply to all. In response to today’s leak, Joseph O’Reilly, Chair of the UK Global Campaign for Education said:
“This is deeply worrying document. If the commitment to doubling aid to education is scrapped it would undermine years of good work by campaigners and the public to put education in developing countries on the government’s agenda. Developing countries could be currently losing out on as much as $70bn a year in economic growth by not offering quality education to all citizens, so to scrap plans to double aid for schools is economic short-termism of the highest order. David Cameron must resist this cut, and re-state his commitment to International Development and education in particular.”
The argument to cut education funding is based on the difficulty of measuring learning outcomes. This is a narrow argument and the investment in education over the past ten years has seen a further 40 million children have access to a classroom. Money and investment in education works. Both David Cameron and Andrew Mitchell know this and would not be where they are today if it had not been for their own educations.
Yet they are on the brink of denying it to others. While it’s still possible that these priorities will be revised, Britain stepping back from its leadership role in this area at a time of the global economic crisis is biting deep when African countries are facing cuts of some $4.6 bn to their education budgets is a great tragedy which could leave scars for many years to come.