The Education For All programme in India was hailed by our Government as an inspiring         example of the effectiveness of Britain’s foreign aid budget. 

As £388 million of taxpayers’ money was poured into the grandly titled scheme aimed at improving Indian schools, the Department for International Development (DfID) trumpeted its success.

‘Remarkable progress is being made,’ boasted the Department’s spin machine, adding that the project had helped ‘to reduce the number of out-of-school children by five million since 2003’.

But like so much in the fantasy world of international development, this success story was an illusion.

The reality was much less uplifting.

According to a report released in May 2011 by the Indian government, no less than £70 million of DfID’s £388 million programme had been stolen or lost.

Much of the cash had been allocated to schools that did not exist. A proportion went to buy private cars for officials. 

Moreover, there was little evidence that money was helping to improve schools, since attendance by pupils and teachers was dismally low.

The former dean of education at Delhi University, Professor Anil Sadgopal, dismissed DfID’s claims as nonsense. 

‘Enrolment is not equal to attendance,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what the British mean when they said their free school project is “making remarkable progress”. 

‘I think the British people should be asking their government why it is funding such bad-value projects out of your public exchequer.’

It is a good question — for the shambles of the Indian schools programme is hardly unique. 


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