Uganda court orders closure of low-cost Bridge International schools

  • Published
A teacher interacts with a student at a Bridge International school in Uganda
Image caption,
Bridge International has incorporated technology to help teachers assess pupils

Uganda's High Court has ordered the closure of a chain of private schools over concerns about poor sanitation and its curriculum.

The Bridge International Academies group says it offers affordable, high-quality education to its 12,000 pupils, who often come from poor families.

The Education Ministry says the 63 schools must now close immediately.

The group, supported by foundations such as those set up by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, says it will appeal.

A judge said the Bridge International school authorities had been given several opportunities to meet the national standards but had failed to do so.

The US-owned group first opened its schools in Uganda in 2015, but has been plagued with accusations of poor sanitation, inadequate infrastructure and not following the national curriculum, reports the BBC Africa's Catherine Byaruhanga from the capital, Kampala.

Image caption,
Bridge International has been criticised for classrooms that are partially built

The government ordered their closure in July also alleging that the schools were recruiting unqualified teachers.

However, the organisation decided to go to court to fight the decision.

It insists it follows Uganda's public education system, with seven years of primary school and children starting from the age of six.

Some people who support Bridge International argue that government schools are worse off with nearly 70% of children dropping out before they finish primary education, our correspondent says.

Teacher absenteeism is also said to be a major challenge with about one third of teachers not turning up during the school week, she says.

Uganda's education crisis in numbers:

  • 68% of students do not finish primary education
  • 78% of new teachers failed a basic maths test and 61% failed a basic literacy test
  • 29% of teachers absent during the week

Sources: Ministry of Education, 2014, Uganda National Examinations Board, 2015, Uwezo, 2015

Bridge International Academies has major backers, including the UK government and the foundations of philanthropic billionaires Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

How Bridge International operates in Uganda:

Image caption,
Bridge International wants to educate more than 10 million children across the world by 2025
  • In Uganda, Bridge International has incorporated technology in teaching and says it follows the Ugandan curriculum. Lesson notes and timetables have been installed on e-readers and a tablets
  • Managers of the school say the computerised system simplifies their job and monitors teacher attendance
  • School authorities have denied that they provide low quality education and are over-reliant on technology. They argue over 50% of their teachers are graduates of government teacher-training colleges
  • Some of the uncompleted school buildings that the education ministry has a problem with had been inspected and approved by the local District Education and Infrastructure Committee, according to Bridge International.

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