As Uganda’s education system struggles, for-profit schools become flashpoint
Monday, December 19, 2016
NSUMBI, UGANDA— In Prossy Nsereko’s cramped office, the writing is literally on the wall.
One side is covered with peppy, hand-written slogans: “Winners never quit.” “We are what we believe we are.” On the other is a list of school fees.
Ms. Nsereko is the academy manager, or principal, of a Bridge International Academy in Nsumbi, a hump of urban sprawl in central Uganda. Her office walls show the two faces of Bridge, a fast-growing chain of private academies that markets itself to parents earning less than $2 a day: part school for the poor, part profit-seeking enterprise.
It is a combination that thrills investors and appalls some activists – and that has thrust schools like this one, a lime-green mélange of brick, chicken wire, and metal sheeting, to the center of debates about the future of education.
Since July, the Ugandan government has been trying to close all 63 Bridge academies in the country, the first of which opened just last year. In November the High Court upheld the government’s effort, ruling that it had followed the correct procedures.
Bridge is appealing, and the schools, which educate 12,000 of Uganda’s 8.7 million pre-primary and primary students, have stayed open pending another ruling, probably in January.