Uganda moves to shut down schools funded by Gates, Zuckerberg

Nov 29, 2016 by

UGANDA – The government of Uganda is working to shut down dozens of for-profit Bridge International Academies, a low-cost private school system funded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Uganda government already ordered more than 60 Bridge schools in the country to be shut down over a variety of allegations, from employing teachers who are not qualified to unsanitary school conditions to a sex education program promoting pornography and homosexuality, the East Africa Monitor reports.

Critics also claim the Bridge approach to education is overly scripted and standardized, which is the same argument cited by opponents to the Gates Foundation funded Common Core national standards in the United States.

“You can’t call it an education that Bridge is offering,” Global Campaign for Education president Camilla Croso told CNN.

“You have technology — like tablets — often standing in place of teachers and you have very scripted classes that tell the teachers exactly what to do and when — so you don’t have any sort of autonomy and you can’t improvise.”

Uganda minister of finance, Matia Kasaija, recently highlighted some of issues at a graduation ceremony for Martyrs’ University. Matia said Bridge Academies are “using schools to apply and promote sexual education” that is “conveying the gospel of homosexuality to our children,” according to the news site.

“The Ministry does not know what is being taught in these schools which is a point of concern to (the) government,” Director of Education Standards Huzaifa Mutazindwa told CNN.

The country’s high court ordered Bridge to shut down its 63 campuses in the country, but delayed the action until Dec. 8 to give students time to finish exams while Bridge International Academies appeals the decision.

BIA currently operates more than 400 schools across Africa and India. Company officials denied the allegations raised by the government in a prepared statement, and contend the country’s officials are ignoring its efforts to address the accusations.

“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,” Uganda BIA director Andrew White told CNN. “The Ministry has been unwilling to give us an audience to set the record straight.”

Many BIA parents and students, who pay $6 each per month to attend the private school, have protested the government’s plan to shut down their schools.

White insinuated that special interests focused on keeping a government monopoly on education in the country are playing a key role in the move to root out the private school.

“We definitely feel like a lot of pressure has been applied to have a particular view of Bridge that is a negative one,” he said. “I don’t think the government is threatened by Bridge, but I think lobby groups are trying to make the government and ministry feel like they should be.”

BIA critics including Croso contend that the school system’s profit-making approach means it should have no place in education, regardless of the fact that BIA students reportedly outperform government school students in places like Kenya.

“They are profit making enormously,” she said. “It’s very indecent because they are looking at poor people as a profitable market.”

“It really is incompatible to have human rights and profit making because you are motivated and act in completely different ways.”

GCE bills itself as a “civil society movement” that is “comprised of a huge variety of national and international civil society organizations, teachers’ unions and child rights campaigners” with a mission to “make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.”

One parent, James Black, told The Guardian that he sends his six children to Bridge International schools because the private, US-owned company provides a safe learning environment at a reasonable price, roughly a third of what he was paying before they launched schools in the country in 2008.

“The government says that the facilities are not clean but when I visit the school I look at the kitchen and latrines and they are fine,” he said.

Black also offered his take at other political elements he believes are at play in the move to shut down Bridge schools.

“Bridge schools are mushrooming and many of the officials in the ministry own private schools,” he said, “and I think that they are scared that they will lose pupils and their fees.”

Source: Uganda moves to shut down schools funded by Gates, Zuckerberg | EAGnews.org

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