“We are going to close all its schools in the country because we gave them time to address the issues we highlighted in our inspection reports, but they refused to listen to us."
PIC: A teacher conducts a class at the Bridge International Academies on Saturday in Nsumbi, in the suburbs of Kampala. (AFP)
KAMPALA - Although Bridge academies have filed a notice of appeal against the High Court ruling, which directed that its 63 campuses across the country be closed, the education ministry insists that the court order be implemented.
Abdallah Mutazindwa, the director of education standards, told New Vision on Sunday that schools would remain closed as earlier directed by the education ministry, until they certify all the required operating standards as set by the education ministry.
“We are going to close all its schools in the country because we gave them time to address the issues we highlighted in our inspection reports, but they refused to listen to us,” Mutazindwa said.
Without naming names, he warned that more substandard schools, which do not meet the education ministry requirement would be closed.
“We started with Bridge because it has been expanding its campuses day by day, yet we had advised them to first focus on the already existing schools and they ignored the advice,” Mutazindwa said.
Pupils from Bridge International Academies demonstrate after High Court order's order
The Bridge chain of low-cost private schools is backed by Microsoft and Facebook founders Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
However, Dawn Mulondo, the Bridge’s programme manager for East Africa, urged the parents not to panic, saying the schools will remain open. He was addressing parents at Bridge campus in Nsumbi in Nansana Municipality on Saturday.
“I want to assure you that we have already instructed our lawyers to seek a second remedy from the appellant court and our schools will remain open. Our schools are not the worst in Uganda, but I do not know why they fight us.
“For instance, unlike other schools, we have no pupil reported dead because of the alleged poor hygiene. They said we do not have a curriculum, but I would challenge the education ministry to set exams to our pupils and see their performance,” Mulondo said.
Godwin Matsiko, the school’s legal officer, also confirmed the judge did not make consideration on what is important for the future of the poor pupils enrolled in the academies.
Matsiko said the judge misinterpreted the meetings Bridge held with the ministry officials, hence reaching a wrong decision. He revealed that they would file an application seeking an interim order pending the final determination of the case by the court of appeal.
Bridge International academies are non-profitmaking education service providers, which were officially launched in Uganda in February last year, with seven campuses.
The schools also operate in India and Nigeria and have entered into a partnership with the Liberian government to run its primary schools.
According to its administration, it has an enrolment of about 1,200 pupils and employs over 800 workers in the country. They have been operating on a provisional licence.
In Uganda, the schools charge sh40,000 for preprimary pupils and sh80,000 for both Primary Four to Primary Six pupils. They have not yet started Primary Seven.
On Friday, Justice Patricia Basaza ruled that the education ministry has a mandate to promote quality control of the education and power to close institutions that do not comply with its set basic requirements before she dismissed Bridge application.
On August 25, this year, the Education ministry directed that all the 63 Bridge campuses be closed for lack of qualified teachers, poor hygiene, infrastructures and approved curriculum by the National Curriculum Development Centre.
WHAT PARENTS SAY
Margret Nansamba: “I am very disappointed with the judge. This school has been offering our pupils quality education at an affordable price. I call upon President Yoweri Museveni to intervene immediately.”
Rogers Lubega: “I have three children in these schools and my children have improved academically. They speak good English and we cannot allow the closure. We are going to petition the state minister for education, Rosemary Sseninde, who is the area MP.”
Fatuma Kasozi: “The schools have been offering good care to the children, they give them lunch and we had developed confidence in them. I call upon the ministry to give the school a second chance because they are far better than some government schools in villages.”