The new Minister of Education in Liberia made a deal with the for-profit Bridge International Academies to supply elementary education. The company’s investors include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. (NEA is an investment company, not the teachers’ union.)
“The Minister who has been serving the position for less than a year instead of helping to fix has turned to outsourcing reform in the sector to a private institution with negotiations ongoing for the private entity to manage the primary and early childhood education for a period of five years. Bridge Academies which runs education projects in Kenya and Uganda has record of using android mobile phones in providing classroom lessons to pupils.
“Under the Bridge Academies project, the notes and other lectures materials are stored on an android mobile phone and the teachers use the phones to teach, a method where the teacher does not have to be sophisticated to teach. The institution charges US$6 per student per month in Uganda and Kenya as part of its project and also charges other fees for feeding and others. Some in Kenya and Uganda believe that $6 plus other charges by Bridge Academies is a lot of money for the millions in the two countries. In Uganda, many say the amount requires poor Ugandan families with many children to borrow in order to keep all their children in school or to choose which child goes to school.
“Despite charging fees, the World Bank through its sector investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested US$10 million in Bridge Academies in 2014 in order to increase the number of Bridge schools in the country and expand to three countries including Uganda. The IFC also approved a loan of US$4.1 million to Merryland High School, a private, fee-charging secondary school in Entebbe, Uganda in December 2014.
“Bridge continues to get criticisms from the Governments of both Kenya and Uganda for its method of using Android mobile phones to teach students where most of the teachers used only use what is placed on the phone as Bridge resulted to using teachers who are not qualified to teach since the teaching materials are placed on a phone and the teacher only needs to teach what is available. The entity teaching method is seen in the two countries as discouraging the employment of qualified teachers who will interact with the students while teaching instead of using fixed materials downloaded on a mobile phone.
“Current Education Minister Werner whom many described as reformer, instead of working to revamp the education sector, took off time visiting East Africa mainly Kenya and Uganda where he started negotiations for Bridge to come to Liberia and manage the primary education sector on a private-public partnership program. FrontPageAfrica has gathered that Bridge officials are in Liberia to conclude arrangement for a pilot project of the first 50 schools to begin using the Bridge project beginning school year 2016-17.
“As part of the project the PPP providers will design their programmes (curriculum materials, etc., from April to September 2017 while phase two will rollout contracting out the remaining schools over 5 years, with government exit possible each year dependent on provided performance- September 2017 onwards. Eventually the Ministry of Education is aiming to contract out all primary and early childhood education schools to private providers who meet the required standards over 5 year period. According to the tentative timeline the by February/March 2016 the memorandum of Understanding for the pilot 50 schools will be signed and by September 2016, the first 50 schools launch, with baselines and performance measures.”