British taxpayers’ money to Bill Gates’ substandard African schools

This video says about itself:

Profiting from the Poor: the case of Bridge International Academies in Kenya

8 November 2016

Pupils are not really learning and teachers are not really teaching at Bridge International Academies in Kenya. Still, many families sacrifice large sums of their budget, which go into the “low cost” education provided by this chain. But what lies behind the green walls of these schools? Should parents trust them, pupils put their future into their hands and international donors contribute to the success of a chain that is not up to standards when it comes to offering quality education for all? This video will be eye-opening for many.

Bridge runs more than 400 nurseries and primary schools across Africa. It started its expansion after opening its first school in a slum in 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, where it currently operates 359 academies throughout catering to 102,644 students with over 4255 academy staff.

Bridge is financially supported by the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and education conglomerate Pearson Ltd. It is also supported by the World Bank and DfID-UK.

Bridge’s business model, which includes fee charging schools run by unqualified teachers delivering a scripted standardised curriculum, has faced heavy criticism. The Ugandan branch of Bridge has recently come under scrutiny for offering an education well below the national standards, which prompted the order by the Ugandan Education Ministry to close the schools in October 2016. Also attracting significant criticism is the Liberian government’s announcement to outsource its primary schools to Bridge.

The company has plans to dramatically increase the scale and scope of its operations to deliver education services to over 10 million children across a dozen countries by 2025.

To find more about Bridge go here.

By Aisha Dodwell in Britain:

Bridge Academy schools wouldn’t be good enough for kids in Britain, so stop promoting them overseas

Wednesday 22nd November 20

by Aisha Dodwell

“UNSANITARY learning conditions,” “unqualified teachers,” “poor-quality education,” “unaffordable.”

These are just some of the damning terms used to describe schools across Africa run by Bridge International Academies, a private for-profit company that provides “low-cost” private education.

No parent should have to send their child to a school like that.

In Britain, we rightly have standards that schools need to meet to ensure children receive quality education in a safe environment.

So why is Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) investing aid money into the private company responsible for providing substandard schooling?

In yet a further indictment against Bridge Academies, the international development select committee (IDC) released its report into DfID work on education yesterday.

It raises serious questions once again regarding the quality of education provided by the company, its inability to reach the poorest and most marginalised children, as well as the sustainability of such a high-cost model of providing education.

Serious concerns have also been raised regarding its relationship with country governments.

These concerns are only the latest in a string of similar criticisms made about Bridge International Academies.

In December 2016, the Kenyan National Union of Teachers issued a damning report claiming the company provides “poor-quality education” and that its schools remain unaffordable to many households, contributing to “educational segregation” in the country.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan government threatened to close all Bridge International Academies schools in the country due to substandard conditions.

Earlier this year over 100 civil society groups from across the world issued a statement calling on investors to end their support for the company.

Yesterday’s report must be the final nail in the coffin for DfID’s funding of Bridge International Academies.

It is now clear that DfID must end its funding of this private education provider once and for all.

The department needs to end both its direct funding to the company and its additional investments made via the CDC Group (DfID’s private equity branch).

The problem goes beyond just one company. The model of providing education via private for-profit providers is not the right approach.

Access to quality education should be something every child has a right to, not a privilege reserved for those children whose parents can afford it.

The IDC report showed that there is simply not sufficient evidence to support the roll-out of a model of education provision that is reliant on private providers.

In 2015, Global Justice Now published a report that exposed many of the problems associated with the DfID agenda of promoting private education.

An unprecedented 2016 statement from the UN committee on the rights of the child warned that British aid’s support for low-fee, private schools run by for-profit businesses could even be considered a violation of children’s rights.

DfID has also faced criticism from the UN special rapporteur on education, who claims that commercialised education furthers inequality in countries.

Britain’s National Education Union has also hit out at the Westminster government’s funding of private education schemes in countries in Asia and Africa. British aid should instead be used to support public education systems to provide free, universal education to all children regardless of their ability to pay.

This is the best way to achieve the global goal (Sustainable Development Goal 4) of ensuring inclusive and quality learning for all.

We should therefore welcome the IDC calls to do this by using DfID funds to support the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Financing multilateral schemes such as the GPE, which place national education strategies at the centre of their work, is the way forward for ensuring all children can realise their right to quality education.

Bridging the global gap in education is essential if we want to build a fairer world for our future generation.

Aisha Dodwell is aid campaigner for Global Justice Now.

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