Bush Seeks To Expand Education for World’s Poorest Children

By Lauren Monsen
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - As part of U.S. efforts to boost international development, President Bush is launching a plan to expand education assistance for children in the world’s poorest countries, says the White House.

The president first announced his plan during a May 31 speech in Washington, just days before attending the June 6 - 8 Group of Eight (G8) Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, where he met with the leaders of other major industrialized nations (Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia). Bush cited a U.S. obligation to help “bring progress and prosperity to struggling nations across the world,” and called on the U.S. Congress “to fund [an additional] $525 million over the next five years to make our educational initiatives even more robust.”  (See related article.)

The goal “is to provide basic education for 4 million additional children on the continent of Africa and across the globe,” Bush said in the May 31 address.  According to a May 31 White House fact sheet, the new plan is designed to produce a beneficial “ripple effect” in needy countries.  “Our investment in disadvantaged children will help foster the development of stable and productive environments where social justice, economic development, and democratic principles thrive,” the White House said.

The president’s plan calls for:

• Creation of new “Communities of Opportunity” centers where 100,000 at-risk youngsters in developing countries would receive after-school training in English, computer skills, critical thinking, science, math and finance;

• Expansion of support for basic education programs in developing countries; and

• Better coordination of education resources, with a new coordinator of education at the U.S. Agency for International Development directing a strategic use of resources that builds on the United States’ current support for overseas basic education, child health and nutrition.

The White House described the president’s plan as “a transformational approach to education” that will promote progress, reduce poverty and help girls and boys become productive and active citizens.  “Moreover, education offers opportunity and counters the forces of extremism and violence,” the White House added.  “This plan will draw on partnerships with the private sector - including business and nongovernmental organization leaders, local communities, and parents - to further expand its impact.”

In his meetings with G8 leaders, Bush also discussed other U.S. proposals to assist the developing world.  In late May, he urged Congress to double U.S. funds for the global fight against HIV/AIDS and to fund his 2005 commitment to expand U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to $8.67 billion by 2010.

“We’re working to increase access to trade and relieve the burden of debt” for developing countries, he said.  “We are increasing our assistance to the world’s poorest countries and using this aid to encourage reform and strengthen education and fight the scourge of disease.”  (See related article.)

By providing basic quality education to an additional 4 million children in Africa and elsewhere, the United States is helping to address a great need, said Bush.  “Giving these young people in these countries the skills they need to succeed, we’re going to give them keys to a brighter future,” he added.

To underscore the U.S. commitment to aiding international development, first lady Laura Bush has announced that she will visit the African nations of Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia and Mali at the end of June.  During her trip, the first lady will visit schools, clinics and a pediatric hospital supported by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

For additional information, see fact sheet.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Group of Eight (G8).