Zuckerberg-backed Bridge International Academies might remain closed for the new term in Uganda because they are not licensed and do not meet standards of academies or international schools.
Mr Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education told Uganda’s Daily Monitor that the administration of Bridge academies had not satisfied the requirements to be granted an operating license.
“We received documents from Bridge International Academies but when we verified them, their files were lacking,” he said adding that the management of Bridge schools was submitting documents for all the schools as a single file yet each of the schools is supposed to meet the requirements.”
However, Bridge International Academies in a response to the Permanent Secretary of Education said, “The Ministry has outlined three main areas which have prevented them approving the files for 42 Bridge schools. We have 42 health inspection reports fully endorsed by districts. We have 42 architectural blueprints approved and corresponding occupation permits issued by District Physical Planning Committees all of them submitted to the Ministry of Education.
The letter from the management said the community of schools had different levels of approvals by architects and physical planning committees in districts where they operate and Bridge has continuously worked with the Construction Management Unit of the Ministry of Education to clarify the nature and choice of building designs, compliance with standards through obtaining the said requisite approvals.
On health and Sanitation, Bridge says it follows World Health Organization (WHO), National Environmental Management (NEMA), and Public Health requirements regarding its sanitation and has obtained occupation permits for its 63 schools.
“In keeping with WHO guidelines, Bridge connects all schools to the national water and sewerage corporation grid where available. It also installs a reservoir water tank on site with adequate hand washing facilities and antiseptic detergent at strategic sections of the school,” the statement read. “Bridge takes the extra step of ensuring its food vendors boil water for drinking and this is kept in clean storage containers at the schools. Bridge also uses a water guard to treat drinking water.”
Based on the above, Bridge says it’s clear that it has complied with every step and strongly believe that the safety of its students is guaranteed.
On its failure to meet the requirements for Bridge Schools to be licensed as ‘international Schools’. Bridge says it has communicated to the Permanent Secretary before that use of the word “International” as part of Bridge brand was only meant to communicate its trans-boundary operations because it has schools in Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and India.
However, the name has been dropped the term ‘International’ according to the requirements of the Ministry of Education.
“In our letters to Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza, dated 22nd September, 8th November; 24th October, November 20th and 4th December 2017 we communicated that we in effect renamed our schools to drop “international” and “academy” and that this had been formally registered. In fact, all our schools now take the name “Bridge School” followed by the location,” said the school’s management.
To this effect, “Bridge International Academy Nansana” and “Bridge International Academy Adalafu” are now “Bridge School Nansana” and “Bridge School Adalafu” respectively. Brdige is also seeking to register its schools as community schools because normal/ordinary schools cannot be licensed as academies as it uses the Ugandan curriculum and its teachers use National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) approved books.
According to Head of Bridge Schools in Uganda, Morrison Rwakakamba:“Bridge schools have become a lightning rod in a national conversation between the Ugandan Government and school operators over licensing. There are 1,300 schools and many thousands of children across the country affected by this issue. An issue that has been debated in parliament, by commentators and by communities. We believe it is important that the conversation is constructive and that schools that have followed the licensing process, as outlined by the Ministry, and have submitted the necessary files are able to operate and continue the important work of educating Uganda’s children. If all of the 1300 school were to close, tens of thousands of children would be out of school, most of them completely unable to access education. They would join the hundreds of thousands of children in Uganda today who are already out of school.
“We are putting the needs of these children first. We think Uganda needs more quality schools and not fewer. If anyone doubts our quality, they should look at our 2017 government exam results: 93% of our pupils passed the exam in the top two divisions, all of whom live in the east, where the average pass rate in those divisions was 44%.”