Civil society denounces for-profit ICT4D network of schools
In March, 88 civil society organizations joined voices in a collective letter urging prominent financial investors to stop backing Bridge International Academies (BIA), a multinational for-profit corporate network running more than 500 schools in Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda and India.
The executive director of Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda remarked that “Bridge has failed to meet basic standards and deliver on their promises” and that “Investors will be complicit in this disaster if they do not remove their support.” In February 2018, following 18-months of negotiations the Ugandan Minister of Education decided to close BIA schools for failing to meet minimum educational, health and safety standards.
Ten ESCR-Net members were among the the civil society organisations denouncing a series of harmful practices by BIA, including lack of transparency, poor labor conditions, and disrespect for the local rule of law.
The civil society backlash surrounding BIA highlights the recent global trend of the commercialization of education and ICT4D (information and communication technologies for development). Known for their use of refurbished computer tablets to direct every lesson and track all teacher behavior, BIA claims to provide high quality teaching services at a low cost with standardized high-tech pedagogy developed in their US headquarters.
BIA is the largest chain of commercial private schools worldwide serving approximately 100,000 children — with a goal of reaching 10 million students by 2025. It is funded by some of the most powerful private and state actors involved in the realizing the right to education, including:
- Omidyar Network (founded by the creator of eBay),
- Zuckerberg Education Ventures (founded by the creator of Facebook),
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (founded by the creator of Microsoft),
- and state agencies based in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, the Netherlands and the European Union.