What Went Wrong for Bridge Academies in Uganda?
Monday, December 12, 2016
Uganda’s Ministry of Education is set to shutter the 63 schools run by Bridge International Academies, whose pioneering model for low-cost, private education has drawn significant attention — and investments — from major international players, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Bridge has expanded quickly since opening its first schools in Uganda in February 2015, with more than 12,000 students currently enrolled in its academies across the East African country. According to ministry officials, though, it did so without meeting national standards. Bridge officials refute the allegations, and some education experts cast them as part of a broader international campaign to stop the development of affordable alternatives to underperforming public school systems.
Bridge has turned to Uganda’s court system to block the ministry from acting on its pronouncement. In November, the country’s High Court ruled against the company, determining the ministry had the authority to close the schools. Bridge is currently appealing that decision.
Caught in the middle of this dispute are the Ugandan parents who have paid to send their children to Bridge’s primary and nursery schools. They are now anxious about what will happen if the schools do close, which could happen as early as January. The ministry has called on nearby public schools to absorb the Bridge students but has not presented a plan detailing whether the often-overcrowded Uganda school system can absorb the new pupils.