LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama visited an inner city school in London on Tuesday and announced a joint British-U.S. program to invest nearly $200 million in supporting girls’ education in countries affected by conflict.
Obama, accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha and her mother Marian Robinson, is in Britain to promote her ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, which aims to reduce the number of girls not in school and thereby improve their financial security, health and independence.
“We are doing everything we can to break down the barriers that stand in the way. We want to make sure that every door is open to girls like you and not just here in England and not just in America, but in every corner of the globe,” Obama told students at the Mulberry School for Girls in east London.
“That starts with making sure that every girl on this planet has the kinds of opportunities you all have to get an education and to succeed.”
Obama received a rock-star welcome at the school, where she was greeted by huge cheers and screams from flag-waving students in the school courtyard as a choir performed the song “Something Inside So Strong”. She then watched a poetry reading accompanied by a dance performance.
The First Lady said it was a “devastating loss” that some 62 million girls around the world did not attend school.
“We just can’t afford to lose out on that kind of talent ... It has a direct impact on our global economy,” she said.
The UK-US partnership will have a particular focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping to fund accelerated learning programs in conflict-affected areas and educating more than 700,000 girls aged 10-18 over the next five years.
“It is going to reach into a country that has faced huge challenges and there are many children who have been caught up in that and missed out,” said British Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening.
Earlier on Tuesday, Obama met Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry to discuss support for war veterans and their families. She was due later to have tea with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife at their official Downing Street residence.
Additional reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Gareth Jones