The government of Uganda has moved to shut down over 60 primary schools across the country over concerns that the schools are “teaching pornography” and “conveying the gospel of homosexuality” to Ugandan children. Government officials also say the schools are unsanitary and full of unqualified teachers.
Bridge International Academies, a well-financed for-profit group headquartered in neighboring Kenya which runs hundreds of low-cost private schools in Africa and India, manages all of the schools.
Earlier in November, the High Court of Uganda decreed that all 63 Bridge International schools in the country can only stay open until Dec. 8, reports The East Africa Monitor, a regional English language news site.
The schools are not properly licensed, the court said. They are dirty. The teachers do not have acceptable certifications.
A final judicial hearing on the fate of the schools will occur on Dec. 8.
Also, notably, Uganda’s finance minister, Matia Kasaija, used a recent graduation speech at Uganda Martyrs’ University to criticize the for-profit education company.
“We could not allow teaching sexual matters in public,” Kasaija said, according to The East Africa Monitor. “Why teaching pornography in Bridge schools? This moral decay couldn’t be tolerated.”
During his speech at the Roman Catholic university, Kasaija also declared Bridge International guilty of “conveying the gospel of homosexuality to our children.”
Bridge International Academies is funded by some big names. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has invested $10 million in Bridge International, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft tycoon, and Pearson, the Common Core-loving British education conglomerate, have also provided millions in equity funding.
Bridge International has released a two-page statement zealously defending its schools in Uganda.
“We do not teach any foreign or non-Ugandan cultural values, nor do we have sexual education curriculum in our schools,” the statement says.
“All schools have good sanitation facilities,” the statement notes. “All have 7 latrines and a urinal, 2 large water tanks, safe drinking water and hand washing facilities.”
The statement says that all teachers are certified and that licensing has been an ongoing process with various government units.
The statement also says that Bridge International contributes considerably to the economy and the tax receipts of Uganda.
Some “12,000 pupils and thousands of households” “rely and depend on Bridge,” the company says.
Government bureaucrats in the decidedly Christian nation have defended the Ugandan high court decision and, by implication, Kasaija’s statements about sex education and homosexuality.
“The Ministry does not know what is being taught in these schools, which is a point of concern,” education ministry official Huzaifa Mutazindwa said, according to CNN.
The business model of Bridge International Academies is to charge $6 per month per student.
The director of Bridge International in Uganda, Andrew White, says his company is providing a vital service that government is failing to provide effectively — particularly in the country’s slums.
“Bridge schools are mushrooming and many of the officials in the ministry own private schools, and I think that they are scared that they will lose pupils and their fees,” White told CNN.
Critics of the education company argue that it’s wrong to operate for profit in countries such as Uganda, where abject poverty engulfs about 20 percent of the population.
“They are profit making enormously,” Global Campaign for Education Camilla Croso told CNN. “It’s very indecent because they are looking at poor people as a profitable market.”
On top of all that, critics contend, Bridge International teaches students using a strangely rote method.