Ugandan Court Shuts Out 12,000 Bridge International Academies Pupils

Written by Kevin Mwanza

The High Court of Uganda ordered the closure of 63 low-cost private schools funded by Bill Gates, world’s richest man, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and JP Morgan. The British government has however dismissed the decision as being politically motivated.

The private schools, owned by Bridge International Academies, received $6.8 million in aid last year, have about 12,000 students across the East African nation.

“We believe there is political motivation behind down these schools,” The Mail quoted a source from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) who requested anonymity.

The court order comes two months after it issued an injunction stopping a similar order by Janet Museveni, the Education minister and also the First Lady in July.

In its ruling, the court said that the sanitation facilities are poor, with inadequate water supply and lack of proper toilets in some cases.

DFID however dismissed the decision, saying that the poor conditions only affected one school.

Education International (EI), a global trade union and South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), a teachers’ organization hailed the ruling, saying that Bridge International has undermined the quality of education by not following the national curriculum and employing unqualified teachers, Morning Star reported.

The schools use technological innovations such as electronic readers and tablet which are pre-loaded with lesson plans and Ugandan parents pay $6.2 per month.

Critics have in the past criticized the organization for the education fees despite receiving millions in grants.

Bridge International Academies said that the court ruling throws the education prospects of the pupils in East Africa’s third largest economy, where the education sector is underdeveloped, into doubts.

About 68 percent of the pupils in Uganda do not finish primary education, 61 percent of the new teachers failed literacy tests and 78 percent in a sector riddled by a high rate of teacher absenteeism, according to data by BBC.

The Ugandan project which is now in serious doubt is part of Bridge International’s initiative that runs more than 400 nursery and primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to provide low-cost and quality education. It aims to educate 10 million children in the two continents by 2025.

The privately owned company was founded in Kenya in 2008 and a year later opened its first school in Mukuru Slums, an informal settlement in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The organization said that it will appeal the decision by the Ugandan High Court.