The Bridge International Academies, a set of schools funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have been ordered to close by the Ugandan government, after they were branded by authorities as “unsanitary” and “unqualified.”
CNN reports that the set of 63 schools “ignored Uganda’s national standards and put the ‘life and safety’ of its 12,000 young students on the line,” while “nursery and primary schools were not licensed, the teachers weren’t qualified” and “there was no record of its curriculum being approved,” prompting the order for the schools to close by December.
“The Ministry does not know what is being taught in these schools which is a point of concern to government,” said Uganda’s Director of Education Standards, Huzaifa Mutazindwa.
BIA’s Ugandan director Andrew White defended the schools, claiming, “There’s a lot of miscommunication and a lot of very serious, unfounded allegations.”
“We would like to be given the opportunity to explain ourselves,” said White to CNN. “The Ministry has been unwilling to give us an audience to set the record straight.”
“The existence of Bridge is in response to hundreds of thousands of parents who as of today don’t have an adequate choice of education for their children,” he continued. “The reason Bridge exists is to try and help the government address this by providing innovative and cost effective solutions.”
On the topic of the $6 per month fee for attending the schools, White added, “The poor are individual actors who can make informed decisions on how to spend their hard earned money.”
“Parents have seen in the short time that their children have been with Bridge that they are incredibly engaged,” he explained. “Parents for the first time see their kids wanting to go to school and they have children who are actively doing their homework every day.”
In a document outlining the court dispute, it states that “on several occasions the welfare, education and sanitation facilities in most of the Applicants academies were inspected by MoES and District officials and were found to meet the minimum standard requirements for licensing private schools[…] indicating that the schools are in good sanitary condition.”
However, the schools’ for-profit status has also come under attack, with Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director for the Initiative for Society and Economic Rights, claiming, “there’s some level of arrogance that comes with this and I really think they’re for the profit and not to assist the children.”
The schools are currently set to close by December 8th, allowing students to take their exams before BIA shuts down.