Controversial for-profit school chain receives Global Action award

18 Nov 16

A for-profit education provider that has been ordered to close its schools in Uganda has been given an award for its work from an alliance of businesses and universities and KPMG.


Bridge International Academies was granted the Global Shared Value Award from Global Action Platform, a network of universities, non governmental organisations, businesses and other organisations that search for solutions to food, health and prosperity challenges, in association with KPMG.

The award acknowledges corporations that have “addressed major societal challenges through innovative business solutions”. The group had already won the support of influential donors including the UK’s Department for International Development and the World Bank.

Advocates say its technology driven and cost-cutting model can offer children who might otherwise not have the chance to attend school a chance to learn for a low cost.

Global Action Platform applauded Bridge International for its work in Kenya in particular, where it said the school had identified a scalable, sustainable and successful solution to provide quality education for poor children.

However the fee-charging schools, which operate mostly across Africa but also in Asia, have also faced criticism.

NGOs and teaching unions in Africa and beyond have criticised Bridge International’s operating model, which they argue makes use of unqualified teachers to deliver scripted lessons and manage administration tasks through tablets.

Uganda’s minister of education and sports Janet Museveni ordered all 63 Bridge International nursery and primary schools in the country to close on the basis that they fell short of standards on education, hygiene and sanitation and lacked proper licenses.

The school is appealing the decision, while similar court cases are also currently ongoing in Kenya at the county level. There are over 400 Bridge International schools in the entire country.

Earlier this month a cohort of national, regional and international organisations, including Amnesty International, Global Justice Now and ActionAid, published a joint statement voicing concern that Bridge International’s investors could be failing in their due diligence obligations by funding a school that has allegedly broken the law in Uganda and potentially in Kenya as well.

Tanvir Muntasim, from ActionAid International, said: “The developments in Uganda should act as a cautionary tale for countries planning to allow commercial schools without appropriate regulation or oversight and for investors planning on investing in school chains which are premised on low-standards in order to maximise profits.”

ActionAid’s opposition to Bridge International highlights the divisions within the development community about the value of the Bridge International’s work: the NGO is also listed as a member of the Global Action Platform. 

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