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Bush Seeks to Double, to $200 Million, Educational Aid to Africa

June 21, 2002|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The White House said Thursday that President Bush wants to double the funding, to $200 million over five years, for a program to improve basic education and teacher training in Africa.

The statement was his second on Africa in as many days and came as the White House also announced that Bush next year will make his first visit to the continent as president.

The additional education funding, if approved by Congress, would allow the training of more than 420,000 new teachers and provide 250,000 scholarships for girls. The money would also enable the federal government to join with historically black colleges and universities in the U.S. to provide 4.5 million more textbooks to schoolchildren in Africa, according to the White House.

Bush previously visited Egypt as part of a delegation of governors and Gambia as a member of a U.S. delegation during his father's presidency. The White House did not say when Bush would make the trip or what countries he would visit.

Bush was to discuss his proposal at a Thursday night dinner here honoring the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, a Philadelphia minister who worked to end apartheid in South Africa and to improve overall relations between the United States and the continent.

On Wednesday, Bush pledged to seek an additional $300 million to help nations in Africa and the Caribbean protect infants from the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. About 2,000 newborns are infected with the virus every day. The program now is funded at $200 million.

Both presidential pledges seem intended to soften, if not entirely preempt, criticism Bush might encounter at a summit next week in Canada of the Group of 8 leading industrialized nations, during which assistance to Africa is expected to be a prime focus.

Although Bush's dual commitments drew praise from some AIDS and education activists, others criticized both initiatives as falling short.

The United States is frequently taken to task for being stingy when it comes to foreign aid. The nation's $10-billion annual international assistance budget is the lowest among wealthy nations as a percentage of economic output, critics point out.

This year, Bush proposed a 50% increase in the U.S. foreign aid budget over three years, targeted at developing nations that commit themselves to free trade, political liberty and human rights.

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