The United Kingdom will provide £54 million for the development of primary and secondary education in Bangladesh focusing on girls and children with disabilities.
"It's my great pleasure to announce two new programmes for primary and secondary schools again, working alongside the government. This will help bring education in the country back on track which was disrupted due to the school closure amid the pandemic," Lord Tariq, minister of state for South Asia at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said during his keynote address at the "Bangladesh-UK: Partners in Progress".
"Today I announce a new UK funding of up to £54 million to support education in Bangladesh, with a focus on ensuring all children, but especially girls and those with disabilities, have access to a high-quality education," he said.
During the programme held on Monday at the Foreign Service Academy, organised by the foreign ministry of Bangladesh, Lord Ahmad said that the UK was funding schools to develop the future of children and help them contribute to Bangladesh's future development.
The funding will be used for the two new programmes aimed at ensuring quality education for disadvantaged girls and young people.
The first programme, called "Educate the Most Disadvantaged Children", will provide catch-up and accelerated education for marginalised out-of-school children in hard to reach areas, focusing on girls and children with disabilities.
The UK will work with the government of Bangladesh's Bureau of Non-Formal Education to strengthen the non-formal education sector and will fund research to build the evidence based on "what works" to bring disadvantaged children back to school in Bangladesh. The programme will be delivered with partners, including Unicef and BRAC.
The second programme, "Education Quality Improvement Programme in Bangladesh", will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in Bangladesh.
"The future of our generation is being shattered and we must make sure to grab every chance and opportunity to develop their potential," Lord Ahmad said.
UK for transparent election
Saying Bangladesh should have an open and vigorous debate about the country's direction as it approaches its next election period, Lord Ahmad hoped that the next general election in Bangladesh will be transparent and held following proper procedure.
"As Bangladesh approaches its next election period, the constitution emphasises both transparency and due process. It is a real guiding light to everyone. I do hope and believe citizens of Bangladesh will have an open and progressive vote about the country's direction," he said.
Inclusive politics was essential for every country's prospect, something that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman knew very well, he added.
Mentioning the remarkable decision by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to provide shelter to Rohingyas, he said that the UK will not let this matter fall off the radar.
Ultimately, this crisis will only be resolved through political response and accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya community, he said.
"Let me assure you as a permanent member of the Security Council…we will not let this matter drop," he said, adding the matter was further magnified given the impact of the ongoing crisis and the toll it was taking on Bangladesh, including growing insecurity in Cox's Bazar.
"We must work together and I stand very much with Bangladesh," he said.
As the incoming Chair, Bangladesh is hosting the 23rd Meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and 21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), which began on Monday at the hotel Intercontinental, Dhaka.
The UK minister welcomed Bangladesh as the new leader in the Indian Ocean region.
Bangladesh wants to improve relations with UK
Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen, who chaired the event, said Bangladesh wants to enhance its historical and strategic relationship with the United Kingdom, adding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had given the same message during her recent visit to London.
"What the prime minister wants to convey is that while relations between the two countries are very good, there is a need to change the traditional lens or prism. Thinking 'out of the box' in improving relations as a whole would be good for both countries," he added.
Lord Ahmad said, "We value the partnership with Bangladesh. We have been friends before and will be friends in the future.
Bangladesh's geopolitical importance in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region had grown and at the same time, it had not shown any aggression towards any other country.
In this regard, the foreign secretary said, "We hope that this attitude of Bangladesh will be appreciated by our international partners. We also hope that the partners will build a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding."
Lord Ahmad, who is also the UK Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, is expected to meet the prime minister during his stay in Bangladesh.
He will also visit Cox's Bazar and discuss solutions to support the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.