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Women's Education (Sub-Saharan Africa)

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 3 March 2010

7. What steps the Government are taking to increase the number of girls in sub-Saharan Africa attending school; and if he will make a statement. (319870)

The UK is committed to increasing aid for education in sub-Saharan Africa to help to ensure that all girls, as well as boys, benefit from good quality basic education. The numbers of girls enrolling in schools in sub-Saharan Africa increased by some £21 million between 1999 and 2007. That was in no small part due to the support provided by the UK.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s reply. Does he agree that the best way of lifting people out of poverty is through the education of the country? I welcome that, but what more can we and other nations do to help?

I agree with my hon. Friend that education is one very powerful route to helping developing countries and their citizens lift themselves out of poverty. We have made a series of commitments in terms of the financial resources that we will commit for education, particularly in Africa, to which we expect to adhere. We are also looking at what else we can do to work with developing country Governments to improve the quality of education, to increase the number of teachers and to improve the learning experience for the students in the schools.

Does the Minister accept that too many children all over Africa are still left out of school? That happens not because too little funding goes into general education, but because they cannot afford the school uniforms and the basic pens and pencils that are a prerequisite for being included in a school.

I accept that a huge challenge still faces a series of countries and their citizens when it comes to getting children into school. In Zimbabwe, for example, children still have to pay user fees to go to school, even though our assistance is providing support. That is one reason why we are determined to protect the international development budget, going forward. It is a pity that 96 per cent. of Tory candidates do not share our commitment to that aim. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. I am sure that the House wishes to hear Michael Connarty.