Education, Education, Education was the mantra of the UK’s incoming government in 1997. A decade later, as a new Labour Prime Minister takes office, education in the developing world is taking centre stage. Gordon Brown recently outlined a vision in which “we will do for education what the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières achieve for health, and seek to provide education not just in places of comfort and peace but everywhere in the world – behind frontiers in conflict zones and fragile states.”
In this issue of Developments, Louis de Bernières, the novelist who found fame with his Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, describes his own first-hand experience of education in a post-conflict country following his recent visit to Nepal. We also highlight the educational benefits of the rising numbers of school links. In the Masindi district of Uganda, for example, results have leapt in recent years, explained in part by their partnerships with pupils and teachers in UK schools. At the same time, members of schools in the North have been hugely enriched by the experience. While brickbats tend to match plaudits following the annual G8 summits, the recent meeting in Germany saw another major funding boost for the Education for All Fast- Track Initiative, designed to accelerate funding for universal primary education. The world is making progress on education. According to the recent Global Monitoring Report the number of primary aged children not enrolled in school fell from 98 million in 1999 to 77 million in 2004.
Microfinance, another vital tool in liberating poor communities, received a welcome shot of publicity with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Prof Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank. “I have always maintained that poverty was not created by the poor,” he explains in our feature on page 28, “but by society’s institutions that became a ‘disabling environment’ for them.” Microcredit is is also central in what Prodeepta Das on page 31 calls “the silent revolution of women’s self-help groups” in India. When you’ve read the articles, why not make your views known to other readers? Check out our relaunched website where you can join the development debate.
Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney