In a blow to privatization of education, the World bank has withdrawn its support for Bridge International Academies. BIA has been opening for-profit schools in African nations, which discourages public support for public schools.

Civil society organizations and teachers’ unions in Africa have warned of the dangers of allowing a for-profit company to take over education in impoverished nations.

Veteran journalist Peg Tyre was one of the first people to call attention to BIA’s ambitions in an article in the New York Times Magazine. She visited BIA schools in Kenya and interviewed its leaders:

Bridge operates 405 schools in Kenya, educating children from preschool through eighth grade, for a fee of between $54 and $126 per year, depending on the location of the school. It was founded in 2007 by May and her husband, Jay Kimmelman, along with a friend, Phil Frei. From early on, the founders’ plans for the world’s poor were audacious. ‘‘An aggressive start-up company that could figure out how to profitably deliver education at a high quality for less than $5 a month could radically disrupt the status quo in education for these 700 million children and ultimately create what could be a billion-dollar new global education company,’’ Kimmelman said in 2014. Just as titans in Silicon Valley were remaking communication and commerce, Bridge founders promised to revolutionize primary-school education. ‘‘It’s the Tesla of education companies,’’ says Whitney Tilson, a Bridge investor and hedge-fund manager in New York who helped found Teach for America and is a vocal supporter of charter schools.

The Bridge concept — low-cost private schools for the world’s poorest children — has galvanized many of the Western investors and Silicon Valley moguls who learn about the project. Bill Gates, the Omidyar Network, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the World Bank have all invested in the company; Pearson, the multinational textbook-and-assessment company, has done so through a venture-capital fund. Tilson talked about the company to Bill Ackman, the hedge-fund manager of Pershing Square, which ultimately invested $5.8 million through its foundation. By early 2015, Bridge had secured more than $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Apparently, some of the original board—Gates, CZI, and Tilson—already left the board. The endorsement of the World Bank was important to the credibility of BIA, especially as its efforts to monetize African education expanded. That endorsement helped to neutralize the objections of local organizations that lacked the resources of the investors.