Today, in Mozambique, led by Nelson Mandela, a message is being sent to every parent in the world: by 2015 every child must have the right to schooling and a school to go to.
Today, Britain is promising more money than ever before for global education and entering 10-year commitments with poor countries to make education for all a reality. We are promising to spend at least $15bn over the next 10 years on global education - four times larger than our commitment over the past decade. By this act 15 million children who do not go to school today will have the chance in the future.
We are also making an appeal to other rich countries: let us make the coming decade an education decade - ensuring that every child in the world has education.
For $10bn a year, the world could provide education for every child in every continent. It seems like a huge sum but works out at just £7.50 a year or 2p a day for each of us in the richest countries.
For 2p a day, we could provide schooling for every girl and boy now denied education. That means new teachers, classrooms and books. And that 2p would not just provide the teachers needed now but ensure we could train teachers for the future. It is a scandal that, every day, 100 million children are denied the most basic education, while those lucky enough to attend a school can be taught in huge classes with not enough teachers and hardly a book between them.
This lack of education has a disastrous impact on individuals, countries and continents. The statistics on personal prosperity and health are stark. For every additional year of a child's education in the poorest countries, average earnings rise by 11 per cent. For each additional year of a mother's education, childhood mortality is reduced by 8 per cent.
In Swaziland, two-thirds of teenage girls in school are free from HIV while two-thirds out of school are infected. Yet in Africa alone, we know that two-thirds of children never complete a primary education, with girls in particular denied the chance to make the most of their potential.
It is, of course, those who have least who lose out. In most of the world's poorest countries, parents must pay even for basic schooling. In sub-Saharan Africa, such charges can take up to a quarter of a family's income. The result is that even where school is available, they cannot afford to go.
It is at the invitation of Mozambique's President [Armando] Guebuza that President Mandela, with the finance ministers of Nigeria and South Africa, and Hilary Benn [The Secretary of State for International Development] and myself, are today issuing a call for action to answer their appeals. Our demand is simple: that promises must be kept, school by school, class by class, and child by child.
Primary education for every child, putting opportunity into the hands of all, is not just the most effective anti-poverty strategy but the most effective economic development programme. This prize is within our grasp and within our budgets.
Already, through the World Bank's fast-track initiative, countries like ours are providing increased financial aid to support education in poor countries. But progress has not been fast enough. That is why Hilary Benn and I are today calling on countries to make 10-year commitments to deliver education for all.
I hope and believe our EU and G8 partners will match our investment. President Vladimir Putin has already responded by promising to make education for all a key priority of Russia's G8 presidency this year.
The history of our world so far is the story of the triumph of the human spirit but also of the criminal waste of the human potential of millions. We have it within our power to become the first generation that develops not just the potential of some, but all our children. We cannot let them down.
Only the tough make it to school
By Basildon Peta
You need to be tough to go to school in Mozambique's impoverished rural provinces.
Only those made of sterner stuff can manage the trek to schools located up to 10 miles away from scattered villages.
The teachers also need nerves of steel.Fernando Silva, who has taught at several schools, says: "In some remote parts, the environment at schools resembles that of jails."
Mozambique's 16-year civil war was devastating for education with many schools destroyed and teachers often killed.
Mr Silva says none of the seven schools where he taught in the provinces had electricity, running water and basic toilet facilities. Even in the major provincial cities, many are ramshackle structures. There are shortages of every basic material. At one school, one textbook can be shared among 80 pupils.
But Mr Silva is encouraged by the Mozambican government's efforts in trying to improve the conditions and in building more schools. It will need enormous resources and external help. "Most of our schools are slums. Converting them into proper centres of learning is essential for this country."Reuse content