As schools across the country reopened for semi-candidate classes on Monday following the Covid-19 induced lockdown, 53 outlets of Bridge International Academy (BIA) across the country remained closed.
Since its inception in 2016, BIA has had 63 private nursery and primary schools, with more than 12,000 pupils and has been employing more than 800 Ugandans. But only 10 schools remain open. Ms Kamidah Mutonyi, a former head teacher in one of the closed schools in Bugema, Luweero District, on Monday attributed the closure to low enrolment of pupils majorly due to ‘constant intimidation by the government.’
“The school I was managing, by the time of its closure, had a total population of 50 pupils. At the beginning, parents embraced the school but after ‘threats’ from the government to close them, they developed a negative attitude towards them,’’ she said.
Mr Denis Ogwang, the former head teacher of BIA-Kawanda in Wakiso District, said employing unqualified head teachers also contributed to the collapse of some schools.
“I hold a Diploma in Education but most of my predecessors were not qualified, forcing parents to transfer their children; and by the time our bosses started employing qualified staff, it was too late because parents knew that even teachers are not qualified,” he noted.
One of the teachers, who preferred to remain anonymous to speak freely, said they were demotivated by BIA’s alleged tough policies of deducting their salaries over allegations of contract infringements.
“BIA was paying us between Shs200,000 and Shs250,000, but our salaries were being deducted each time over issues such as coming late and losing school items, while the managers’ salaries were being deducted for low enrolment of pupils, among others,” she said.
Ms Alice Nabakazi, a parent in a BIA school in Jinja District, said she was forced to transfer her child to another school because of the institution’s fees payment policy.
“We were told that the school is for low-income earners, but we were being forced to pay full fees before a child can access a class yet I’m financially incapacitated,’’ she said.
Findings of a report conducted between February 24, 2020 and March 6, 2020, which was released by the Ministry of Education in April 2020, indicates that only 10 BIA schools remain operational.
Of these, five are in Wakiso, while the rest are spread across Arua, Mpigi, Mayuge, Mbale and Bugiri districts. At BIA inception in Uganda, Wakiso had the highest number of schools (18), followed by Jinja with six.
According to the Ministry of Education, only the 10 licenced BIA schools are supposed to remain open and after two years, others may be allowed to start operations if they fulfil the basic requirements and minimum standards.
Most of the facilities at the closed schools have been demolished while others have been sold to poultry farmers, according to sources.
Mr Abraham Mudasia, the BIA East Africa director of communications, said the decision to close or open a school right from 2016 was based on the needs and requirements of the local community.
“Bridge operates community schools in Uganda and our schools continue to operate though the decision to either close or open a school since 2016 is dependent on the needs and requirements of local communities,” he said, adding that they are committed to supporting children to access quality education.