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Fast growth and rapid challenges of Bridge International Academies in Uganda

Mon, March 6, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Sheraton Atlanta, Floor: 1, Georgia 7 (South Tower)

Proposal

The presentation will focus on the human rights impact of low-fee private schools on the right to education in Uganda and the importance of adherence to national laws and minimum standards for operating a school with specific reference to Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda. The presentation will be made from a practitioner’s perspective, drawing from experience as a right to education advocate in Uganda, and specific experience in monitoring the operations of BIA in the country.

BIA started its operations in Uganda in February 2015 by opening seven schools in Eastern Uganda to mark the start of the Ugandan academy year (Bridge International Academies, 2016). It has since grown to 63 schools, as of August 2016. However, just a year after it started in the country, BIA has had to face a number of challenges. From April 2016, the Government of Kenya has sought to halt and then close Bridge schools over concerns of respect of minimum educational standards. BIA also got involved in a controversy in June 2016 over the arrest of a researcher who went to interview staff at its schools.

The presentation will share the situation of BIA in Uganda in relation to the scale, location and legality of their operations and the government efforts to regulate them. It will review the concerns that have been raised against BIAs and provide the most recent updates on the court case that BIA brought against the government to challenge the government decision to close all their campuses (Bridge International Academies (K) Ltd V. Attorney General, 2016).

It will also analyze the data available at the time of the conference from a human rights perspective, Three primary sources of data will be used: a qualitative research conducted by the Initiative for Economic and Social Rights in ten BIA schools in February and March 2016, a qualitative anthological research conducted for Education International in May 2016 (Riep & Machacek, 2016), and a systematic review of secondary sources, including media releases and BIA publications, between January 2016 and February 2017.

The information will be analyzed against international human rights law and standards applicable to the analysis of private actors in education (Aubry & Dorsi, 2016), in particular in the light of recent concluding observations issued by UN and African Union Human Rights bodies that have urged Uganda to regulate private schools and ensure they do not harm human rights. It will also look at and applicable domestic standards, notably the Education Pre-Primary, Primary and Post-Primary Act, 2008; the Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards (BRMS) for education institutions, 2014, and provide reflection on the compatibility of BIA’s operations with this framework. The presentation will analyse in particular the issue of cost as a barrier to access for children from poor backgrounds, as well as access based on geographical presence. It will also look at the quality standards, relationship with the public system, and transparency.

References:
Aubry, S. & Dorsi, D. (2016). Towards a human rights framework to advance the debate on the role of private actors in education. Oxford Review of Education, [online] Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2016.1224301 [accessed 1 October 2016].

Bridge International Academies. {2016). Website. Available at: http://www.bridgeinternationalacademies.com/ [accessed on 1 March 2016].
The Education (Pre-Primary, Primary and Post-Primary) Act, 2008.

Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards (BRMS) for education institutions, 2014.

Ministry of Education and Sports, Guidelines for Establishment, Licensing, Registration and Classification of Private Schools/Institutions in Uganda (2014).

Judgment in Bridge International Academies (K) Ltd V. Attorney General (Miscellaneous Cause No.160 of 2016) – To be issued.

Riep, C., & Machacek, M. (September 2016). Schooling the Poor Profitably: The innovations and deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda. Education International. To be published.

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