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Kenya: education privatiser wants to silence biggest critic

In an attempt to silence Kenyan teacher union leader Wilson Sossion, Bridge International Academies have threatened him with legal action for exposing its activities undermining the attainment of inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

Sossion, the Secretary General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has focused efforts on revealing thatBridge's business plan is predicated on the employment of unqualified staff delivering a high scripted standardised curriculum in substandard facilities. These are cost-cutting techniques aimed at minimising operational costs in order to maximize profit.

In August last year, Bridge International Academies’ schools in Uganda were ordered shut down by the Government because of the company's neglect and disregard for national legal and educational requirements. In announcing the closure of Bridge in Uganda, the minister sited the company’s failure to employ qualified teachers (more than 80 percent of Bridge staff are not qualified), failing to confirm to the Ugandan curriculum and poor hygiene and sanitation that “put the life and safety of the school children in danger.”

In Kenya more than 70 percent of Bridge teachers are not qualified. The edubusiness directs them to follow a standardised highly scripted curriculum reading off a tablet. One teacher told researchers, “We do not plan any lesson. We follow the tablets to the letter. We are robots being directed by tablets.”

Following an unsuccessful appeal against the County Education Board of the city of Busia , a court in Kenya ordered the closure of Bridge schools for non-compliance with basic educational standards. In its recommendations, the board had highlighted the fact that the schools did not employ trained and registered teachers. The report also noted the lack of appropriate facilities.

Attempted intimidation is not a new tactic employed by Bridge. In June last year it fabricated allegations against EI's researcher Curtis Riep, which resulted in his temporary arrest whilst researching Bridge's operations in Uganda. The allegations were dismissed by authorities.

The KNUT's lawyers have responded to Bridge's saying "our client neither intends to apologize for any report or publication, that has been made by him in his capacity as the Secretary General of KNUT made against and concerning your client. He also has no intend to undertake to stop or not continue the publication of reports and stories concerning your client by any media house or any person as such events and information are justified and fair comment about your client"

Lean more about the Ugandan case in Education International (EI)’s full report.

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