The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has withdrawn funding for Bridge International Academies (BIA) following pressure from activists who have argued that the schools are for-profit organisations.
The World Bank’s private-sector lending arm announced that it has exited investment in NewGlobe Schools, the parent company of BIA effective March 3, 2022, after making investments in excess of $10million (Sh1.14 billion) in the company since 2013.
The revelation comes amid concerns that the low-cost private schools are breaching government regulations and exposing pupils to unsanitary conditions.
“IFC has exited its investment in NewGlobe Schools, Inc. (the parent company of Bridge International Academies), effective March 3, 2022,” said the IFC in an update dated March 9.
“Over the period of IFC’s investment, the company scaled up significantly and currently reaches approximately 750,000 students through primarily its technology licensing contracts with government partnership schools, supporting innovation in the primary education sector.”
Education International (EI), a global federation of teachers’ trade unions, has been leading efforts to have the IFC stop its support for Bridge, which mainly runs schools in the country’s low-income areas targeting families earning less than two dollars a day.
“We welcome this decision, which has been a core demand from teachers in Africa, and call on other Bridge International Academies investors to follow the IFC’s lead,” said EI general secretary David Edwards in a statement.
The lobbyists have maintained that quality public education is a basic right and campaigned to block profit-focused institutions whom they have accused of exploiting low-income communities.
“In a world where so many children are denied access to education, allocating scarce funding to anything but public education is totally unacceptable,” said Mr Edwards.
The World Bank is the largest funder of education in the developing world.
EI argues that investing in private for-profit operators, such as BIA, clearly contravenes the global commitment to inclusive and equitable quality free education for all consistent with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
A 2017 report from the UK MPs acknowledged that “it is clear that Bridge is a contentious partner,” and says that particular inspectors in Uganda reported that children were being taught in “substandard facilities and unsanitary conditions”.