A pretty critical opinion piece on the news that Gordon Brown is planning to spend £8.5bn on improving African schools prompted me to write to the Daily Telegraph. Unexpectedly, they went ahead and printed an edited version. The full letter read:

Sir – Today’s opinion piece (“Brown offers false hope to Africa, with our cash”) seems to contain nothing but thinly-veiled selfishness. Although the UK’s delivery on its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals has been patchy at best, this is a step in the right direction and should be received with some optimism (assuming Brown goes through with it).

Even if some British children do leave primary school without basic reading skills, at least they are given the opportunity to learn. Children in the poorest parts of the world may never even see a school. An increase in state spending may not produce results in the UK, but in the developing world it could easily represent the difference between having a teacher and not having one.

It is especially disappointing to see the “African leaders are corrupt” argument being rolled out yet again. How does one remove a corrupt government? A £6bn war for regime change? Or maybe one builds a few schools and improves the standard of education so that the people can change their country by themselves.

Anybody who has actually been to Africa would never think that Africans just want handouts. Aid, properly administered, helps them to help themselves.

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