Taxpayers funding Brazilian dance troupe in London borough – Shock

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Those of us reading the Daily Mail regularly will already have enjoyed this headline on 12th September.  Not bad as the Mail goes, I suppose, but not a patch on the Sun's recent "Get De Beers in" as England's footballers strutted into the World Cup finals.

The Mail noted: "More than £240,000 of aid money that was meant to help the Third World has been spent on an Afro-Brazilian dance troupe in Hackney.  The project was set up to teach children Capoeira, a form of dancing involving head butts and kicks and devised by African slaves."

This is a reference to DfID's development awareness fund (ie, its education budget).  The Mail claims that this is among 31 questionable donations totalling £6.3 million this year.  After listing more such wasteful generosity, The Mail quoted a DfID spokesman (sic) who  said: 'Development awareness fund grants are awarded to not-for-profit groups which educate the public about global poverty and how to reduce it.  This project will help raise awareness of problems faced by poor people in developing countries and also directly benefit children in a disadvantaged area of London."  Quite so.

The Mirror has also covered the story, but in less detail.  Curiously, neither of the papers' websites obviously acknowledge the source of the exposé.  This is the report, Fake_Aid How foreign aid is being used to support the self-serving political activities of  NGOs, produced by the International Policy Network.

More open-minded readers who managed to get beyond the opening paragraphs might have been rather less shocked at the list of  projects that qualify as wasteful.  These included:

  • £60,000 to teach ethnic minority people in North Edinburgh about global poverty
  • £208,000 on teaching ethnic minorities in Wales about the Government's (sic) Millennium Development Goals.
  • £200,000 to make Asian teenagers aware of how the fashion industry hurts developing countries
  • £121,000 to teach schoolchildren about 'blood diamonds'
  • £259,000 to embed global issues into the HE engineering curriculum.

Pretty standard ESD fayre you might think, although there are a lot of zeros in these budgets (I comment as a cash-strapped researcher).  I sensed that the Mail couldn't decide whether it was the amount being spent, or what it is spent on, that was the bigger problem.

Of course, all open-minded educationalists (that's all of us, of course) will want to read the full report for themselves, and not rely on the press or those NGOs (and GONGOs) in receipt of funding for opinions.  It is something I'm likely to return to.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering what the mechanism is that DfID uses to ensure that what it spends on young people's education is fully congruent with the DCSF's sustainable schools initiative, and how DfID ensures that all recipients of funding fully conform to its rigorous equal opps policy.  Answers on a postcard ...

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  • Hi Bill. I have indeed read the report, and have my own view on it. With reference to Government awareness of Sustainable Schools I was wondering if you had come across the following response to a 'Parliamentary Question on Global Learning' from Schools Minister, Diana Johnson? While Sustainable Development is clearly featured in both question and response, the DCSF Framework is conspicuously absent. An oversight? See: