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House of Commons Hansard
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Returning to Education after Covid-19
15 July 2020
Volume 678
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What steps her Department is taking to help children in developing countries return to education after the covid-19 pandemic. [904775]

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The UK is committed to ensuring a safe return to school for children all around the world. We are taking decisive action through our education programmes and will throw our diplomatic and development weight behind global efforts, including the UNICEF-led campaign to support children’s return to school. On Monday, we announced £5.3 million of new funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to enable over 5,000 teachers to provide education in 10 refugee hosting countries.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for her response and commend the work that she is doing in the Department. How will the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office assist the Global Partnership for Education replenishment next year?

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The UK is proud to be the largest bilateral donor to the Global Partnership for Education, with a commitment of up to £225 million over a three-year period. As a major education multilateral, it has a key role in tackling the global learning crisis. That is more crucial than ever given the covid pandemic, which is having a profound effect on education systems across the world. The GPE is flexing about £400 million to support education stability, and the UK is keen to play an active part in the 2021 replenishment. We are presently exploring the possibility of how we could co-host that replenishment

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IMC Worldwide was commissioned by DFID to build 31,000 classrooms in Pakistan for a fee of £107 million. It renegotiated to only build a fifth but kept 58% of the initial fee. The majority of the classrooms built were substandard and presented a risk to children. By October last year, only a quarter had been retrofitted. Will the Secretary of State put the two DFID reviews into what went wrong in the public domain? Why is the same classroom design being used in other countries? Were any children hurt, and when can they go back to school?

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The safety of children will always be our No. 1 priority, and I agree that it is completely unacceptable that children were being taught in tents because buildings funded by UK aid were not being built to the necessary standards. As soon as DFID knew that there was a problem, we took urgent action to ensure that all schools knew that the buildings should not be used, while we worked with the contractor to agree a plan for retrofitting the affected buildings. Covid has caused some delays to that progress, and schools are closed until 15 September, but I understand that the first of the buildings will be handed over shortly, in a state that is considered acceptable. Global education continues to be an absolutely key priority for the Government and, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere, we are working hard to get children back to school.