The Ugandan government has ordered the for profit school chain, Bridge International Academies, to cease operation until it reaches acceptable educational and infrastructure standards. The move has been welcomed by Education International, which has an important campaign countering the rise of privatisation in schools. The campaign is particularly aimed at outfits like Bridge, which target some of the poorest familiesin the global South and charge school fees for a substandard 'education' provided by unqualified teachers in inadequate and often makeshift buildings.
Both Pearson, the world's largest education corporation and Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg are investors in Bridge.
The move by the government is to be welcomed however it is necessary for it to do much more. Ugandan teachers are often still on poverty pay, and it is not uncommon for them to remain unpaid for long periods. Only last year teachers were on strike for a living wage. This action was courageous given the repressive nature of the regime of Yoweri Museveni, who has a long history of attacking labour rights and repressing trade union struggles. His regime also follows World Bank prescriptions to the letter, increasing private sector involvement and ensuring 'ease of doing business' for corporations.
It is also unfortunately the case that the low quality infrastructure in Bridge schools is echoed in too many government schools, a large number of which lack water and sanitation. The Ugandan government needs to listen to teachers and communities and fund education properly from the huge wealth which should belong to Uganda.
The move to suspend the operations of Bridge in the country is to be welcomed but such welcome must be accompanied by a demand to fully fund education for all Ugandan children.