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British PM and Pop Singer Shakira Lead Education Effort

Grammy-winning pop singer Shakira is teaming up with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call for more global help in sending poor children to school. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

The glamorous Colombian singer and the quiet British leader are working together to persuade developed countries to help finance an effort to provide a basic education for every child in the world.

Shakira is the honorary chairman of a week of events to publicize the cause of an advocacy group called the Global Campaign for Education.

She says one of the group's goals is to get more help from world leaders in paying for primary education for 72-million children, ages six to 12, who cannot attend school because of poverty.

"From 1999, there were 96 million children around the world who were not enrolled in any kind of education, and the number has decreased to 72 million, so, yeah, it is working, but we still have to do so much more," said Shakira.

The group also wants to help some 226 million older children who miss out on school.

British Prime Minister Brown joined with Shakira in a telephone conference on Monday, to push for the effort.

"I want to see us become the first generation in history to ensure that every child goes to school and that we develop the potential of not just some of the world's children but all of the world's children," said Gordon Brown. "If we meet our goals in education, we will not just transform those children's lives for good. By consigning childhood illiteracy to history we will help make poverty history too."

As British treasury chief in 2006, Mr. Brown pledged $15 billion over 10 years for education in the developing world. Last month, Britain and France each agreed to support the education of eight million children in Africa by 2010.

Britain's commitment in this area dwarfs that of the United States, whose funding for global education aid is $465 million a year. Shakira will meet with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday to persuade them to pass a bill, which members of both parties have endorsed, to increase U.S. aid for education in developing countries to $3 billion a year by 2012. The Education For All Act was introduced last May, but has not passed either house of Congress.

Another event sponsored by the Global Campaign for Education this week will have an estimated five million students from more than 100 countries take part Wednesday in an effort to break the world record for the largest simultaneous lesson.