Helping the world’s poorest girls go to school is a moral imperative for Britain.

Article for the Times co-authored by Pauline Latham OBE MP and David Lammy MP (Labour MP for Tottenham)

The education we receive as children is a cornerstone of our development for the rest of our lives.

For hundreds of millions of children who do not have access to education, however, this central building block is missing. This issue goes beyond political divides and requires collaboration to solve.

This is a corrosive problem for the world’s poorest countries. Not only do many children miss out on an essential time to learn and grow, but when children lack education it stymies development and prosperity for entire communities and countries. A mere 10 per cent increase in secondary enrolment reduces the risk of war by 3 percentage points.

The UK can be proud of its leading role in this field. Since 2015 we have helped 7 million children into education and by 2020 this number will rise to 11 million. However, we cannot rest on our laurels.

The importance of action cannot be downplayed, and should be top of the list for new development secretary. The UK must do more, as today’s international development committee report on education highlights.

Despite the immense need, there is a global trend of education being underfunded and the proportion of aid it receives is falling. The share of UK aid going to education has also fallen from 13 per cent in 2012 to 8 per cent in 2016.

Funding must increase, but we must also be innovative, working with developing countries and finding creative solutions to maximise impact.

A key way to increase impact of our education spending in developing countries would be focusing on marginalised groups, such as girls and children with disabilities. This is something the UK already does with its innovative Girls Education Challenge, which has put more than 2 million girls into education.

There are more than 130 million girls out of school globally – twice the population of the UK. They are out of school not because they want to be, but because there are no schools where they live, or girls aren’t welcome there, or they can’t afford it.

The imperative for girls’ education is practical as well as moral. They are less likely to become child brides, less likely to get pregnant while very young, at less risk of contracting diseases like HIV, and less likely to die young.

Closing the gender gap in education could also generate an additional $112 to $152 billion a year for the economies of developing countries.

There is an opportunity for Penny Mordaunt to help maintain the UK’s leading role in this field.

Early next year leaders will meet to agree funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an education funding mechanism to reach the world’s poorest. GPE works in 65 of the poorest countries, working to boost their entire education systems.

A significant and early pledge from the UK is essential. This will help unlock the potential of millions, giving them the life chances that we take for granted. The UK’s continuing leadership would also encourage other donors to match our ambition.

If the UK pledges £380million ($500m) for the next 3 years, we can get 4,750,000 additional children completing primary school and train 425,000 teachers.

Helping the world’s poorest get an education is a moral imperative and in our national interest. The case for it is clear.

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