Children from low cost Bridge International Academies funded by Microsoft and Facebook founders Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg stormed parliament in Uganda’s capital Kampala protesting court’s decision to close.
In their school uniforms, the little ones cried before press cameras demanding the speaker of parliament and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to intervene.
Last week, a judge ruled that the 63 Bridge International Academies provided unsanitary learning conditions and had not been properly licensed.
Local media reported that the children who were in company of their parents were intercepted by police who asked them to first report to the police station if they want to be helped.
Parents were quoted by media saying were caught off guard by the court order asking government allows their children to sit their final exams before they can be transferred to other schools since this is their last term.
“I had already paid fees for my two children and therefore if the school is to close before the term ends, it will be challenging for me. I wish government could allow the pupils to finish this term before closing the schools,” said one of the parents, Mary Lukomwa.
The ruling is a blow to Bridge International which has expanded rapidly since its inception in 2008 offering cheap, standardised, technology-driven education in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Under the Bridge International model teachers read scripted lessons word-for-word from a tablet computer that also records student attendance and assessments.
Gates’ and Zuckerberg’s foundations are among the company’s high-profile backers.
But Bridge International has courted controversy with Liberian teachers threatening to strike earlier this year over government plans to outsource all primary education to the private US-owned company.
In Uganda, government inspectors said children were being taught in sub-standard facilities and unsanitary conditions.
Bridge International, which claims to have 12 000 students in Uganda, said it would challenge the High Court ruling. “We are extremely disappointed for our pupils and disagree with this ruling,” said liaison officer Godwin Matsiko.