Education Aid investigated in new government report – what ActionAid thinks
Janet Convery, Head of Schools and Youth
ActionAid welcomes the evidence in today's report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) that UK aid is getting more children into school. That’s good news. But of course everyone should share the concerns in the report about the quality of education that many children are receiving.
The ICAI is important because it was set up by the government to scrutinise the British aid programmes and give constructive advice to the Department for International Development so it can make decisions on how best to ensure effectiveness and value for money in the aid budget. Its advice is taken seriously and acted upon.
ActionAid has specialised in education since we were founded 40 years ago.
Our experience shows that if aid is to be poverty focused, the first priority must be to reach all children and get them to school.
However, it can't end there; it is not a trade-off between quality and quantity. What we need is the mobilisation of financial resources, globally and domestically to do both.
There are many reasons why 67 million children miss out on their right to an education altogether and don't even get the chance to walk through a school gate.
There are many more reasons why millions struggle through the school day, often with no water, little food and squashed up together in classes of up to 250 (as ActionAid showed the Guardian in March in The struggle to finish school in Malawi.)
Money lies at the root of most of the reasons.
As part of the Send My Friend to School campaign, I go into many UK schools to talk about the millennium development goals and the target of ensuring every child - girl and boy- will have completed a full primary education by 2015.
It takes a long time for students to get their heads around the fact that many of their peers around the world are not in school. They are instead climbing up trees with machetes to chop down cocoa pods for chocolate, working long shifts down coal mines in places like Bihar (the Indian state mentioned in today's report) and spending their days hawking in markets.
One of the first questions they always ask is "why wait till 2015?".
2015 still seems a long way off to young people but the reality is that unless those finances are mobilised, millions of children will be waiting a lot longer.
So what do we tell our young people when we fall so far short? We couldn't afford it? In a world where according to a recent letter in the Guardian "the richest 1,000 persons, just 0.003% of the adult population, increased their wealth over the last three years by £155bn". You try explaining that to young people.
The UK government can be proud of its commitment to give 0.7% of GDP to aid and of its commitment 'not to balance the nation’s books on the backs of the world's poorest people'.
However, aid alone will not crack this one. We need to move towards a situation where all governments can sustainably fund education from their own resources - tax revenues are key to this.
This means that they need to be able to call on multinational companies operating in their countries to pay their fair share of tax without seeing revenue siphoned off into tax havens.
Parents also have a key role. Education transforms lives. The better the education, the bigger the transformation.
This is why parents and particularly mothers devote so much time to getting the best education possible for their children. Today's report recommends that UK aid gives more support to parents in the world's poorest communities. So does ActionAid.
Parent power, holding local government and school's to account, lies at the heart of our work in the thousands of communities where we work.