Bridge schools face UK funding withdrawal after MPs raise concerns


Learners in a Bridge’s classroom in Kenya. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

The controversial low-cost private schools backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg face having funding from the UK government reviewed following a report from a group of UK MPs who visited the institutions.

Bridge International Academies (BIA), which is also supported by British aid money, offers cheap nursery and primary education to poor families in Kenya and Uganda.

The report from the UK MPs which has just been released acknowledged that “it is clear that Bridge is a contentious partner,” and says that particular inspectors in Uganda reported that children were being taught in “substandard facilities and unsanitary conditions”.

In Kenya, the company’s operations are under threat owing “to an alleged lack of compliance with government regulations”.

DfID’s support of “low-fee private schools” is “controversial” and the report says “it is imperative that the Department fully reviews available evidence when considering future support for such initiatives”.

READ: Bridge schools founder rules out closing Kenya academies

In their findings, the UK MPs drew on information from within Kenya and Uganda as well as from their visit to the Bridge Academies in Kenya and Uganda as well as Nigeria.

The report acknowledges that “elements of Bridge’s model are innovative, impressive and scalable,” and that “there was certainly a demand for Bridge schools from parents who could afford to pay.”

However, the report said that “the quality of teaching was still variable and was notably poor in the Ugandan Bridge School. Significant concerns have also been raised throughout the inquiry about the company’s relationships with country governments.”

Concerns have also been raised about the higher cost of fees in Bridge schools.

Bridge International Academies (BIA) yesterday failed to respond to the Business Daily calls and SMEs over the British law makers report.

The company operates in highly populated areas where school places are highly contested (for example Nairobi and Lagos) and “in these areas it is undoubtedly expanding access to education to certain children in its areas of operation,” the report says.