Education Quandary

'I want to give my teacher wife a donation to a small educational charity for Christmas. Any ideas?'
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Hilary's advice

My small charity of choice is Camfed, a superb outfit which supports girls in rural Africa through school, and sometimes on through university. These girls are the poorest of the poor. Without this help, they will never break out of poverty. With it, all kinds of things happen. An educated girl not only faces a better life herself, but is likely to delay marriage, limit the number of children she has, protect herself against Aids, give back to her community, and help more girls get educated. Which is a fantastic deal, considering it costs just £6 a month to put a girl through secondary school.

Camfed was founded 12 years ago by education researcher Ann Cotton, after doing field work in Africa. She ran a market stall in Cambridge to get things going. It started with 32 girls in Zimbabwe and by 2004 had put more than 71,000 girls through school in Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. It has accountants, teachers, market gardeners and chicken farmers among its alumni, and through its active old-girls association it is now reaching nearly half a million people a year with its community programmes. In Zimbabwe alone Camfed alumni are supporting thousands of children from outside their own families through school.

"We work closely with local communities, there are only two financial transactions between us and the school, and everything is completely transparent," says Ann Cotton.

Education is life-changing. If you make a Christmas donation to this highly practical charity you will change lives.; tel: 01223 362 648.

Readers' advice

A deserving recipient of your writer's generosity would be SOS!SEN, an independent helpline (020-8979 8853) for parents of children with special educational needs. The team of volunteers provide advice and sometimes financial assistance to parents to help them to find their way through the complex procedures required to get educational provision for their needs. The dedication of Marion Strudwick, team leader, has transformed the lives of many vulnerable children and their parents.
Nicky Wesson, Middlesex

I have recently discovered the good gift catalogue ( For a specified price you can choose to give money to one of a number of a charities. For example, you can provide books for a library in India. The range is huge and prices start at £18.
Alison Lawson, Dorset

Prem Dan and Akanksha are two India-based charities that educate orphans and street children in Mumbai. Earlier this year my 18-year-old daughter visited Mumbai with other students from Aquinas College, Stockport, to offer educational programmes devised by the students. The experience was uplifting, inspirational and a major reality check. Further information from Aquinas College, 0161 483 3237, or at
Frank Norris, Cheshire

Next week's quandary

Isn't it nonsense of the Government to want primary school teachers to give sex-education lessons? At the school where I teach we follow the national curriculum, but we are all clear that we want to try to keep our children as children for as long as possible. They are forced to grow up far too quickly as it is. What do other readers think?

Send your letters to Hilary Wilce by Monday, to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mails: Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser