Call for solidarity action - Bridge International Academies` actions in Uganda

Brussels, 6 June 2016

Dear comrades,

EI has written to inform us of a serious matter requiring our immediate attention and solidarity action.

Mr. Curtis Riep is a PhD student at the University of Alberta, Canada. Last week, while in Uganda conducting research commissioned by EI on the impact of Bridge International Academies, Mr. Riep was arrested by police.

Bridge International Academies is a chain of `low-fee` for-profit schools operating in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Its operations are supported by global edu-business Pearson, billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, DfID-UK and the World Bank, among others. The Liberian government has recently announced that it will outsource its primary schools to Bridge.

Bridge`s practices are the subject of significant criticism. These practices include the employment of unqualified staff delivering a scripted standardised curriculum in inadequate school facilities. Bridge does not comply with minimum national regulatory frameworks applicable to schools.

Mr. Riep is now safely back home in Canada.

The events and circumstances surrounding his arrest are summarised in the statement below and in correspondence to Bridge (see attached).

Educational International (EI) strongly condemns Bridge International Academies for the manifestly false allegations made against researcher, Mr. Curtis Riep, a Canadian citizen. These allegations resulted in Mr. Riep being arrested and taken for questioning to Kyenjera police station, Kampala, on Monday 30 May 2016. At the time, Mr. Riep was in Uganda researching Bridge International Academies on behalf of EI.

The allegations were made by Bridge in an attempt to manipulate the Ugandan Criminal Justice system and to discredit Mr. Riep. Fortunately, Bridge`s tactics were unsuccessful and will backfire.

Bridge went so far as to publish a "wanted" poster with a photo of Mr. Riep in the Ugandan press on 24 May 2016 as though Bridge itself could decide criminal behaviour. This is unacceptable. It is equally unacceptable that Bridge made arrangements for the media to be present when Mr. Riep arrived at the police station for questioning.

Following a thorough investigation by the police Mr. Riep was completely cleared. It is noteworthy that while the representatives of Bridge were present during the early stages of the investigation, they were absent when Mr. Riep was cleared.

At the time Mr. Riep was conducting his research, the Ugandan authorities had put a halt to the expansion of Bridge activities due to its failure to meet regulatory requirements applicable to schools.

Bridge has demonstrated that it fears transparency about its operations. It appears to be so afraid of scrutiny that it targeted a researcher who was working in a completely legitimate manner. If this act by Bridge was aimed at intimidating Mr. Riep and EI it has failed.

Bridge`s actions are unbecoming an organization that claims to have the interest of students at heart.

EI is therefore asking that we disseminate this information through our networks and that we communicate our strongest opposition to these events directly to Bridge CEO Ms. Shannon May (shannon@bridgeinternationalacademies.com) with copies to the Ministers for Education of Uganda (jesalup@parliament.go.ug and pro@education.go.ug), Kenya (cs@education.go.ke) and Liberia (wellehsanyon@hotmail.com).

We should further forward a copy of our correspondence to EI at globalresponse@ei-ie.org

Mugwena