Statement: Uganda judgement on the closure of Bridge International Academies must signal a move toward fulfilling the right to education

The 15 organisations endorsing this statement take note of the decision taken by the High
Court of Uganda sitting in Kampala on Friday 4th November which confirms that the process
followed by the Ugandan Government to decide to close schools run by Bridge International
Academies (BIA) was fair and legal. The judgment, which BIA says it will appeal, confirms
that Bridge International Academies could have been operating illegally in Uganda. We call
on governments and investors in BIA to commit to the full implementation of human rights
standards in dealing with the aftermath in Uganda as well as other countries where BIA is

The Government announced yesterday that they would transfer Bridge children to nearby
schools as they close Bridge schools. While closing schools is always highly regrettable, it
appears that the Government was left with no other alternative after several reports found
that BIA was failing to meet minimum education standards. In line with previous civil society
statements, we call on the Ugandan Government to ensure timely and orderly transition of
affected students to nearby government schools to ensure the uninterrupted full realisation
of the right to education of all children. It is critical that no child is deprived of access to
education due to school closure and there is minimum loss of instructional time.

Uganda’s neighbouring government in Kenya has been facing similar challenges in dealing
with BIA, which has over 400 schools in Kenya. It appears that the Kenyan Ministry of
Education has held various meetings with BIA to ask the company to comply with
regulations, and wrote to the company at least twice on 17th November 2014 and 17th
February 2016 to reiterate its demands based on internal reports raising concerns about
BIA’s compliance with the law, apparently without success. The Kenya Ministry of Education
wrote again to BIA on 31st August with a 90 day deadline until 30th November this year to
comply with guidelines and standards.

Abraham Ochieng, from the Kenyan organisation East African Centre for
Human Rights (EACHRights) commented: “The story emerging from Uganda
is strikingly similar to our experience in Kenya. It seems that BIA continues to
flout national regulations despite repeated calls to comply. No education
provider is above the law, and we hope that the process in Kenya will
similarly lead to Bridge schools either respecting national standards or

Yet, the Kampala High Court judgement further demonstrates that, contrary to what the
company has claimed, BIA had been duly informed by the Ugandan government of the legal
requirements it had to follow, but had not taken appropriate action to meet those
requirements. This confirms the concerns that although BIA, a multi-million dollar company,
has the means and resources to comply with regulations, it appears to have ignored multiple
requests to meet the educational standards of the countries in which it operates.

Salima Namusobya, from the Ugandan organisation Initiative for Economic
and Social Rights (ISER) added: “The judgement has proved that BIA is not
serious about respecting the law. BIA schools did not respect the
Government Guidelines on Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards for
Schools for example regarding infrastructure, purposefully used unqualified
teachers in order to reduce costs, in violation of Ugandan laws, and were
running a for-profit business without the agreement and proper oversight of
the authorities.”

It is a domestic obligation in Kenya and Uganda, as well as an obligation under international
human rights law, for governments to set and enforce minimum educational standards for all
schools. Both Kenya and Uganda have recently been called on their obligations to regulate
private schools by UN human rights monitoring bodies and the African Commission, and a
July 2016 Human Rights Council Resolution equally called for adequate regulation in the
face of the growth of commercial actors in education.

Sylvain Aubry, of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (GI-ESCR) commented: “Multiple human rights monitoring bodies and
the UN Human Rights Council have raised serious concerns regarding the
fast-paced and unregulated growth of private education providers, in
particular commercial ones. States have human rights obligations to
adequately regulate private actors through national law, as the Government
of Uganda has done in this case. Education providers, especially international
companies with a lot of resources must respect national standards and laws.”

In this context, the organisations signing this statement are very concerned that BIA’s
shareholders, among them high profile investors such as Mark Zuckerberg, Omidyar,
Novastar, the World Bank Group, the British development agency and the U.S.
Government’s development finance institution could be failing on their due diligence
obligations and responsibilities, which might have legal implications. Human rights practice,
domestic legislation in several countries and various companies’ codes of practice require
shareholders to strive to prevent any violation of the law by the company they invest in, and
the UK has already been told twice by human rights bodies to refrain from funding
commercial schools, which would include BIA. The organisations signing this statement call
on BIA investors to ensure that BIA immediately complies with the law wherever it operates
and that it remedies parents, children or other stakeholders where it has failed do so,
including by reimbursing parents who may have to leave BIA schools due to the company’s
failure to meet the law.

Tanvir Muntasim, from ActionAid International, reacted: “The developments in
Uganda should act as a cautionary tale for countries planning to allow
commercial schools without appropriate regulation or oversight in place and
for investors planning on investing in school chains which are premised on
low-standards in order to maximise profit”.

The organisations supporting this statement are ready to work with the Governments of
Uganda, Kenya, and other interested authorities to support the development of a quality
public education system in which all schools comply with human rights norms and

Key Documents

  • Court judgement:
  • Ministry of Education response:
  • Information statement on ongoing cases involving Bridge International Academies in Kenya and Uganda:
  • Human rights bodies statements related to States’ obligations with regards to Bridge International Academies:
  • Education International report (sept 2016) Schooling the Poor profitably: the innovations and deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda:
  • August 2016 statement by civil society on the closure of BIA in Uganda:
  • May 2015 statement signed by 120 organisations related to the World Bank’s support to BIA:
  • UN statement on UK’s support to commercial schools including BIA:
  • July 2016 UN Resolution urging States to regulate education providers and support public education:

Key Contacts

  • ISER: or Salima Namusobya, Executive Director: +256702473929
  • GI-ESCR: Sylvain Aubry,, +254 7 88 28 96 34


  • ActionAid International
  • ActionAid Uganda
  • African Network Coalition on Education for All (ANCEFA)
  • Amnesty International
  • East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights)
  • Equal Education Law Centre
  • Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)
  • Global Campaign for Education (GCE)
  • Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Global Justice Now
  • Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (ISER)
  • International Federation of Centers for Training in Active Education Methods (Ficeméa)
  • Public Services International
  • Right to Education Project
  • The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University

Note for editors: Background on Bridge International Academies

  • Bridge International Academies Ltd (BIA) is an American based company registered in Delaware. Operating for-profit the company runs a commercial, private chain of nursery and primary schools. With over 400 institutions and 100,000 children enrolled in BIA schools, it is the largest chain of commercial private schools worldwide.
  • BIA has received funding from several large corporations, investors and development partners including the Omidyar Network founded by the billionaire creator of eBay, Pearson (the world’s largest educational business), Novastar Ventures, Kholsa Ventures, philanthropist Bill Gates, Facebook founder’s Zuckerberg Education Ventures, the International Finance Corporation (a branch of the World Bank Group), the UK’s Commonwealth Development Corporation (with funds from the Department for International Development – DFID) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
  • BIA opened its first school in Mukuru kwa Njenga slum in Kenya in 2009, by 2015 the company had 405 schools in Kenya. The company expanded further with 2 schools opened in Nigeria in 2015 and 63 schools opened in Uganda by 2016, and has made plans to open schools in India. Most recently BIA has entered a pilot public-private partnership with the government of Liberia. Through the program “Partnership Schools for Liberia” the government has outsourced 92 of its public pre-primary and primary school. BIA is running 23 primary schools in the pilot. BIA seeks to grow further with the aim of reaching 10 million students by 2025.