As learners wind up their third term holidays, Bridge International schools are set open for the first term, come February 05, 2018, despite threats from the Ministry of Education to close all unlicensed schools.
During the release of the Primary Living Examination (PLE) results on Friday last week, the Education and Sports Minister, also First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni and the Minister in Charge of Primary Education, Rosemary Sseninde cautioned parents against taking their children to unlicensed schools, Bridge International Academies being one of them, saying they will be closed.
However, Morris Rwakakamba, the Country Director, Bridge Uganda has maintained that they will be opening the term, saying they have been working with government to make sure that they get the approval they need to operate.
Bridge was one of the schools closed by the education ministry in 2016 and 2017 for operating below the minimum standards. This was after just a year of operation, having opened in February 2015.
According to Rwakakamba, they have now secured the necessary paper work from all the respective local governments where they have centers and don’t understand the Ministers’ threats.
These include NEMA certificates, Health permits from District Health Officers, Building permits, Inspection reports from District Education Officers and endorsements from all chief administrative officers.
But to David Kibenge, the Ministry of Education Under Secretary, even if Bridge has submitted their file with the ministry to get a certificate of registration, they shall not be allowed to operate unless the process is completed.
“Any school that is not licensed come 5th February will not be allowed to open; and as far as we know, all the Bridge schools are not licensed,” says Kibenge.
With a total enrollment of 14,000 pupils in 63 campuses spread across Uganda, Bridge International offers low-cost, private education for all Ugandans and runs both nursery and primary centers. Pupils pay between Shillings 50,000-100,000 as tuition which also caters for scholastic materials like books and workbooks.
In 2016, Bridge filed a suit in High Court challenging the closure of their campuses by government. Following this, High court issued orders restraining the ministry or agents from stopping the schools from operating.
Bridge and the ministry later agreed on an out of court settlement to allow the directors to address work on the gaps cited by government for their closure. They included among other improving sanitary conditions at the schools, hiring qualified teachers, securing operating licenses and stopping the use of electronic devices to teach as opposed to scripted lessons.
As of now, Bridge boasts of improving these conditions. “We hire 100% grade three qualified teachers at our schools,” says Solomon Serwanja, the Public Relations Officer Bridge International Uganda, adding “Our results in our inaugural PLE round of pupils speaks for themselves.”
In the just released PLE results, 4 of the 46 Bridge candidates passed in division 1, 39 in Division 2, 2 in division 3 and one in Division 4.