Janet Museveni, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister for Education, is calling for the closure of all Bridge International Academies (BIA) schools in Uganda, citing poor infrastructure and hygiene, according to Quartz.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, the Ugandan First Lady stated that recent assessments of the private schools had revealed serious infrastructural and sanitation problems that could put school children in danger.
“Education material used could not promote teacher-pupil interaction and poor hygiene and sanitation put the life and safety of school children at risk,” Janet Museveni told Ugandan parliament.
She hence ordered the schools to be closed indefinitely by the end of September until all ministry guidelines are met.
Controversial Education System
Bridge International Academies is a chain of low-cost, private schools supported by prominent investors such as Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Although the organization aims to provide affordable education to millions of children in poor countries, it has always been criticized for using a non-transparent system of scripted and standardized curriculum designed in the U.S.
Some education officials also claim the organization hires untrained teachers in an effort to save cost, while selling the scheme as a world-class education for poor kids in developing countries.
BIA teachers are required to read a script from a computer – a method that Ugandan education administrators say limits interactions between teachers and pupils.
“We have long been worried that BIA schools did not respect the government’s guidelines on basic requirements and minimum standards for schools, for example, regarding infrastructure and purposefully using unqualified teachers in order to reduce costs,” Mrs. Museveni said.
Ugandan officials also accuse BIA of charging exorbitant fees, which lock out children from poor families, adding that there is no tangible evidence that the organization offers quality education.
The UN and other human rights organizations have also criticized Bridge, saying its curriculum might lead to human rights breaches.
In a statement, Bridge International Academies said it is deeply worried by the government’s efforts to force about 12,000 pupils out of school and 800 Ugandans out of employment.
“In the meantime, our academies are running as usual as we continue to work with the relevant educational authorities to uphold our commitment to our parents and communities to provide a world-class education to their children,” said Michael Kaddu, head of public affairs for Bridge International in Uganda.