Bridge International Schools ready for first term opening amid closure threats

Bridge International Academies is the world’s most controversial low-cost for-profit chain of schools (PHOTO/File)

Bridge International schools say they will open for the first term, come February 05, 2018 despite threats of closure from the Education Ministers. During the release of the Primary Living Examination results last week, the Education and Sports Minister, Janet Kataha Museveni and the Minister in Charge of Primary Education, Rosemary Sseninde cautioned parents against taking their children to unlicensed schools like Bridge International Academies, saying they will be closed.

Museveni urged parents with children in unlicensed schools to look for other options. Morrison Rwakakamba, Country Director, Bridge Uganda, has down played the threats of closure, saying they will open for the first term. He says they have been working with government to make sure that they get approval from them.

Bridge was part of the schools that were closed by the education ministry in 2016 and 2017 for operating below the minimum standards. Rwakakamba says they have secured the necessary paper work from all the respective local governments where they have centers and don’t understand the Minister’s threats.

According to Rwakakamba, Bridge has all necessary licenses and permits to allow them function. They include NEMA certificates, Health permits from District Health Officers, Building permits, Inspection reports from District Education Officers and endorsements from all chief administrative officers.

Bridge International has a total enrollment of 14000 pupils spread across 63 campuses in the country. According to bridge, their model is to offer low-cost, private education for all Ugandans. The company runs both nursery and primary centers. Pupils in Nursery and Primary pay between Shillings 50,000-100,000 as tuition. This includes scholastic materials like books and workbooks.

In 2016, Bridge filed a suit in High Court challenging the closure of their 63 campuses by government. However, Bridge International petitioned high court, which issued orders restraining the ministry or agents following stop the schools from operating.

Bridge and the ministry latter agreed on an out of court settlement to allow the directors to address work on the gaps cited by government for their closure. They included among other improving sanitary conditions at the schools, hiring qualified teachers, securing operating licenses and stopping the use of electronic devices to teach as opposed to scripted lessons.

Solomon Serwanja, the Public Relations Officer Bridge International Uganda, says they have 800 qualified teachers teaching the Ugandan curriculum. “We hire 100% grade three qualified teachers at our schools. Our results in our inaugural PLE round of pupils speaks for themselves,” he told UgStandard.

4 of the 46 candidates presented by Bridge International schools in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations passed in division 1, 39 in Division 2, 2 in division 3 and one in Division 4. David Kibenge, the Ministry of Education under Secretary, says if by the opening of the first term, Bridge doesn’t have licenses for all its schools it will not be allowed to open.

According to Kibenge, even if Bridge has submitted their file with the ministry to get a certificate of registration, they shall not be allowed to operate unless the process is completed. For a private school to be issued a certificate they need to meet certain criteria.

They should have been operational for at least two years, have proof of financial sustenance, have an environment impact assessment certificate, a health permit from the district health officer, school inspection report from the district education officer and building permits. Once a school has all the above documentation, its application must be endorsed or signed by the Chief Administrative officer.

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