British NGOs, unions to stage anti-Bridge Academies demo

Monday May 8 2017

A pupil at Bridge International Academy in Nairobi.

A pupil at Bridge International Academy (BIA) in Nairobi. Teachers unions and several non-governmental organisations in the United Kingdom will protest at the Department for International Development on Friday over the British government’s support for the BIA programme in Kenya. PHOTO | FILE 

By PAUL REDFERN
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LONDON

Teachers unions and several non-governmental organisations in the United Kingdom will protest at the Department for International Development on Friday over the British government’s support for the Bridge International Academies (BIA) programme in Kenya.

They will also focus on British-owned multinational education and publishing company Pearson over support for privatised schools in Africa and Asia.

Last June, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised DfID’s £3.5 million (Sh468 million) investment in BIA as the chain set up 250 schools in Nigeria.

Protests against BIA in Kenya by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) have since escalated.

SUBSTANDARD EDUCATION

“Rapid increase in the number of such schools may contribute to sub-standard education, less investment in free and quality public schools and deepened inequalities in the recipient countries, leaving behind children who cannot afford even low-fee schools,” said the UN committee statement.

However, BIA has denied claims that its academies are only for the elite, saying it was “vital that the global education community invests in new and sustainable education models which ensure that no child is left behind and that teachers are provided with the best possible support”.

TAKEN LEGAL ACTION

With one in four pupils in Africa expected to be educated in the private sector by 2021, BIA runs more than 500 primary and nursery schools in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Libya and has a number of high-profile backers, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

However, Education International (EI), a Brussels-based federation representing 32 million teachers and support staff, told the UK-based Guardian newspaper that it had “deep concern” over BIA’s legal action against Knut and its secretary-general, Mr Wilson Sossion, claiming it was an “increasingly desperate” attempt at silencing critics.

In a letter sent last month to Nick Dyer, the DfID’s director-general of policy and global programmes, EI said the British Government’s ongoing support for BIA was “beyond justification”.