Camfed International, the educational charity that was the subject of the FT’s Seasonal Appeal, is to start work this year in Malawi, its fifth African country, thanks to the generosity of readers who have so far donated £1,330,325 ($2.6m, €1.78m) to our campaign.

British-based Camfed is dedicated to educating girls from poor backgrounds in Africa, and the FT’s appeal has already raised enough money to put more than 4,400 girls through secondary education. The charity is now aiming to raise £1.5m by the end of January when the FT campaign ends – enough to put 5,000 girls through school.

Announcing the move into Malawi, Ann Cotton, Camfed’s executive director, said: “The phenomenal success of the FT Seasonal Appeal so far has enabled us to make the commitment now.” Camfed already works in three southern African countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania – as well as in Ghana.

The charity said the selection of Malawi followed an invitation from the government and Camfed’s estimation that need for its work was great, since girls in the country had far less access to education than boys.

“Our experience in the other countries in the region puts Camfed in a strong position to support the Malawi government in extending access to education for girls in rural areas,” said Ms Cotton.

The FT supported Camfed’s work in its 2006 seasonal appeal, which raised more than £600,000. With the 2007 total already more than double that, Ms Cotton said: “The incredible generosity of the FT readership has awed us this year ... support for 5,000 girls is well within our grasp. With this support we can significantly extend our contribution towards the internationally agreed targets of equality in education and education for all.”

The FT’s appeal has been helped by commitments from several large donors to match readers’ contributions. The Sofronie Foundation and the Skoll Foundation formed a funding partnership that matched reader donations up to a total of £375,000 ($750,000). The Hunter Foundation, founded by Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur, gave a £100,000 matching contribution, as did Peter Sherratt, a vice-chairman of Lehman Brothers and deputy chairman of the Camfed board.

A series of articles in the FT in November and December outlined the work of the charity, which argues that educating girls is the quickest route to alleviating poverty in Africa. This is backed by a growing body of academic research.

Gene Sperling, director of the Center for Universal Education at the US Council on Foreign Relations, said: “Instead of the case for education simply being that each year at school increases incomes by 10 per cent, now it is seen as the intervention that reaps some of the highest returns, especially on health, infant mortality and Aids.”

Camfed’s main work is in secondary education but it also provides some support at primary level and is increasingly helping girls obtain training in running small rural businesses. It carries out its work in close conjunction with local institutions, which keeps its costs low (89 per cent of its budget goes directly to aid) and gives those on the ground a stake. It is also ­distinctive in the close pastoral care it gives each girl and in its alumni association, a social and business networking club.

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