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On 24 May, I was introduced to your Lordships' House by my noble friends Lady Goudie and, my predecessor as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Condon. I thank them sincerely for their help and support on that day. I have been overwhelmed by the generous welcome I have received from your Lordships and the staff of this House. It is extraordinary to come from the outside into a place where you would never have expected to have been and
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to receive such a welcome. I am also indebted to officers and staff for their help and support. That support has allowed me to take my courage in both hands and make my maiden speech. If it had not been for that support, perhaps I would have put it off for another month or two.
Another reason for making my maiden speech today is my passion and close personal interest following previous charitable work in the Western Sahara and the twinning of the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg in South Africa with the London Borough of Southwark. Education, together with policing, was a major part of our activities.
I turn to the debate before us. Education is a fundamental human right. It leads to the fulfilment of an individual in every aspect. The report of the Commission for Africa stated that countries which have not met their target in delivering education will have a higher mortality rate and more underweight children. A World Bank study in 17 sub-Saharan African countries shows a very clear correlation between education and lower HIV/AIDS infection rates. It further showed that providing girls with one extra year of education boosted their eventual wages by up to 20 per cent.
I would submit that the case for education is overwhelming in both human and investment terms. I am sure that all your Lordships will welcome the pledge for education at the World Education Forum in Dakar in Senegal in 2000. It was made by the international community. The assembled nations committed themselves to providing free and compulsory education for every child in the world and achieving adult literacy by 2015. Likewise, commendably, Her Majesty's Government committed themselves at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles to "turning words into actions" and, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to £1.4 billion of funding for education in the next four years.
These actions surely are to be welcomed and commended. For those of us who are privileged to have been involved in some of those activities in the front line, I would commend more co-ordination on occasions, though that is not in any way a criticism.
We also learned from those who we were assisting in so-called educating. We have learned about the priorities of lifehuman dignity, the will to improve and the innate goodness of the human spirit. For us who were involved, the education was a two-way process. To conclude, much has been done but much needs to be done and the goals although formidable can be achieved, provided that the promises made time and again by the international community are kept.
Lord Newby: My Lords, on behalf of the House I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, on his maiden speech. I do not need to enumerate his many achievements in his police career to your Lordships, because they are very well known. We welcome him to the House today and look
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forward to the contribution that we hope he will be able to make in the months to come, as we debate the difficult issues of terrorism and policing in your Lordships' House.
Although the title of today's debate is broad, we are concentrating on Africa, because Africa lags behind. Like other noble Lords, my starting point was the analysis and proposals of the Commission for Africa. The commission very sensibly looked at education in the round and said that rather than simply concentrating on primary education it was necessary to look at secondary, vocational and higher education as part of the overall approach. The commission concluded:
The commission gave depressing evidence of why such an approach was necessary by noting that in many countries there was a chronic shortage of teachers. In Ghana, there were only 25 per cent of the necessary number of teachers, and in Lesotho merely a fifth. Even when there are teachers, they are often underqualified; in northern rural Namibia, only 40 per cent of teachers have teaching qualifications. As a result, the commission was clearly right in arguing that to boost the teaching force, the number of people progressing to and attaining higher education must increase. That is easier said than done, however.
I shall give an example of some of the problems and the efforts being made to overcome them by describing what is happening at the North-West University in South Africa. It is one of the more successful African countries economically and in other respects, so the problems encountered there are considerably less than in other parts of the continent, but they are very significant. I declare an interest as a trustee of the university's fundraising arm in the UK.
The North-West University was created out of the former Afrikaans Potchefstroom University and the black University of the North-West. That created a number of problems, as noble Lords can imagine, but one was the disparity of attainment of new students at the two parts of the university. Not surprisingly, the black students were less well prepared for university than their white counterparts; as a result, not only was the average attainment level on recruitment lower among black students but they had more difficulty in progressing beyond the first year and many as a result failed to complete the course. Problems were particularly acute in the standards of maths and science.
The university realised that the only way in which to tackle the problem was to get involved itself in improving the standards of teaching and management in the schools in the region from which they were seeking to recruit many of their students. The university formed a partnership with the provincial education department, the national business initiative and local communities to deliver a three-year programme in selected schools to improve the overall quality of education of school leavers and to make the schools a focal hub of their communities. They are
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looking for a step-change in community and human capacity development, with programmes that are well under way and are already producing positive results.
At the same time, however, the university realised that it needed to improve the quality of its own management, and with that in mind it formed a partnership with London's South Bank University to develop its HR function, its corporate governance and, interestingly, the whole question about how to manage a multicultural student body, because South Bank University has a very multicultural student body as well. Again, that is producing positive results, and North-West University and South Bank University are both confident that these approaches are replicable elsewhere in Africa. Indeed, South Bank University also works with universities in Uganda and Nigeria on management and curriculum development issues.
What impresses me about these programmes is that they are based on the development of the peoplethe students, the teachers and the professional staffwho are the key to improving educational performance in Africa. Investing in people, therefore, should be the priority for the UK Government in looking at how they can best support educational development across the continent. That is not to say that the physical infrastructureschools, buildings libraries and equipmentis not also important, but I think that this should primarily be an area in which local African governments supported by the World Bank should take the lead. The UK has a comparative advantage in teaching management skills for the education sector and on curriculum development. We should recognise and exploit them.
The kind of programme which I have described, however, will succeed only if it has the support of African governments as well as of the UK and other donor countries. One of the positive results of the Commission for Africa was to help re-energise governments in Africa in terms of further and higher education. NePAD, for example, has recently embraced the concept of renewing the African university project. The African Union, I understand, is meeting at the end of this month to co-ordinate its approach to university development. There is a real sense of momentum for which the UK Government can take some of the credit.
There is, however, also a growing scepticism that the Gleneagles promises and the funding targets in the Commission for Africa report may not be met, and growing concern that the recent momentum could be dissipated. In concluding, my questions are therefore as follows. What is the current state of the play on implementing the Commission for Africa proposals, not least in respect of education? And specifically, what commitment are the Government able to make to help renew Africa's universities both in funding and in helping to co-ordinate the UK higher education sector's clear and genuine willingness to form partnerships with its African counterparts?
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