PRESS RELEASE (Nairobi, Kampala, Monrovia, Johannesburg, 1 August 2017)
174 civil society organisations from around the world have today released a statement calling on investors to cease support for Bridge International Academies, a company running over 500 commercial private schools in the Global South with the support of international donors and investors.
The statement lists mounting concurring evidence and analysis published in the last two years, including independent journalist inquiries, that raise grave concerns regarding Bridge’s transparency, relationship with governments, labour conditions, and breach of educational standards. It highlights the cases of Uganda and Kenya where Bridge has operated schools illegally and failed until now to adhere to national education standards. In both countries Bridge schools have been ordered to close schools the authorities.
The statement outlines how Bridge fails to reach the most disadvantaged it claims to serve due to high costs, as well as negative impacts on families who were accessing the schools. One study found that between 69 and 83 per cent of Bridge parents had difficulty in paying rent, providing food or accessing healthcare due to high school fees.
The document also underscores Bridge’s resistance to public scrutiny and attempts to limit transparency, building on the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee’s recent letter to the Secretary of State, which also raised this issue.
This latest statement follows repeatedly raised concerns about the fast-paced and unregulated growth of certain private education providers, in particular commercial ones, such as Bridge. In May 2015, 116 organisations had published a statement raising concerns about misleading facts regarding the costs and quality of Bridge schools. Since then, evidence from various sources and presented in the statement, including the UN, a UK parliamentary report, independent research reports, and independent media reports, have confirmed those concerns and raised the alarm about the serious gap between the promises of Bridge and the reality of their practice.
NOTES TO EDITOR