By James Tweedie
KENYA has vowed to crack down on the chain of shack schools bankrolled by the world’s richest man after a damning report by teaching unions.
The Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) launched the report by global federation Education International (EI) into the transnational Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Nairobi on Monday.
BIA has high-profile backers such as Microsoft boss Bill Gates, along with venture capitalists and the British and US governments.
It aims to supplant governments in Africa and India as the main provider of education to the poor, with a target of 10 million children from families living on about £1.60 a day enrolled by 2025.
But poor teaching standards, low wages and high fees have characterised the operation. Parents interviewed by the report’s authors said they struggled to pay fees, which could reach £16 a month when school dinners and other costs are factored in.
The report also found that 71.5 per cent of the firm’s teachers were unqualified, giving scripted lessons read from tablet computers.
They teach a shocking 59 hours of classes a week on average, on a median salary of about £80 per month.
KNUT general secretary Wilson Sossion called on the government close all 405 BIA schools in the country, saying: “They should not be allowed to exploit children from poor households.”
Education Minister Fred Matiang’i told reporters he had visited some of the schools and agreed with the report’s conclusions.
“It is true that some of these schools are … (not) offering quality education as they purport to,” he said, adding that the government would be releasing its own report into the outfit.
Mr Matiang’i said he had instructed county commissioners across the country to ensure only official Teaching Service Commission-qualified staff were giving classes from January.
“We are also targeting schools that are not registered or are operating on illegal licences,” he said.
Last month BIA’s chain of 63 schools in Uganda — typically corrugated iron shacks — was shut down after the it lost a court appeal against an education ministry closure order.
The ministry said the schools’ sanitation was so sordid that it endangered pupils’ health and that the firm was not following the national curriculum.
“Bridge International Academies has a few lessons to learn yet,” said EI general secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “The decision of the government of Uganda to close Bridge for failing the meet and adhere to minimum standards has sent a very clear message to this corporate actor.
“The right to quality free education cannot be undermined.”