21 August 2017

Uganda: Govt Starts Verification of Bridge Teachers

Photo: The Observer
A teacher attends to learners at Bridge International Academy Katooke.

The Education ministry is in the process of vetting teachers in the Bridge International Academies (BIA) before deciding whether to license the schools.

A source, preferring anonymity, told The Observer last week that the ministry held several meetings with BIA officials before starting on the verification process.

"In one of the meetings, Bridge officials were requested to submit all details of their staff including original copies of their credentials," the source said. "However, in another meeting, they [BIA officials] said it was difficult to pick original individual documents of teachers since the academies are spread across the country."

The source added that BIA officials were later allowed to submit a list of all their teachers and registration numbers as the ministry awaits their original documents.

According to ministry guidelines, a school proprietor or a teacher is supposed to present original documents during the verification process.

This is in line with part V of the Education Act 2008 which states that, "No person shall teach in any public or private school of any description unless he or she is registered as a teacher or licensed to teach."

"In total, BIA submitted 110 teachers out of the over 300 teachers that had earlier been disclosed to the ministry. We don't know why they did not hand in all the information as agreed, but the department responsible for the verification is still waiting to hear from them," the source said.

BRIDGE REQUEST

In an August 9, 2017 letter seen by The Observer, BIA co-founder and chief strategic officer, Shannon May, wrote to the education ministry submitting information about teachers operating in the academies.

"We are grateful to your team for verifying an additional 34 teacher certificates in the last few days in addition to the 12 you reported on yesterday [August 8]," May wrote. "We also attach a list of 110 teachers with their registration numbers in line with your guidance in yesterday's meeting."

She added: "We are working to capture all the registration numbers remaining to submit an additional list."

May noted that all BIA teachers have been asked to present their original certificates to the ministry for verification.

"We will be submitting more original teacher certificates to your office in the coming days for verification until this exercise is complete," reads the letter.

BIA spokesman Solomon Serwanjja confirmed the developments, before adding that they are in constant dialogue with the ministry to get all 63 academies licensed.

"Licensing is a process in Uganda, and not an event. But, we appreciate the support and direction the ministry continues to give us," Serwanjja said.

When asked whether the shakeup from the ministry has not affected their operations, Serwanjja said: "Bridge schools are open and enrolment is up. We continue to provide high-quality education to 14,000 children in underserved communities.

Bridge schools boast 14,000 learners in 63 schools across the country.

WAY FORWARD

Meanwhile, the ministry spokesman, Patrick Muinda, said various reports have been compiled on the infrastructure, teachers' qualifications and curriculum implemented in Bridge schools.

He said the reports were also presented to Bridge officials in meetings that he described as 'beautiful, peaceful and cordial'.

"The reports have now been submitted to top management and we await its position on Bridge schools," Muinda said.

The Observer understands that the ministry's top management is likely to deliberate on the reports this week. In 2016, the ministry inspected BIA facilities and faulted them for poor infrastructure, hygiene and sanitation, which "put the life of schoolchildren in danger," according to the education minister, Janet Museveni.

Ms Museveni also noted then that the schools did not follow an approved curriculum, before she approved their closure. Serwanjja has since insisted Bridge only teaches the curriculum of the host country in which it serves.

"In Uganda, Bridge only teaches the Ugandan curriculum. As part of the licensing process for any school, materials are being submitted to the National Curriculum Development Centre for review," he said.

On the other hand, Muinda said while the ministry appreciates the use of technology in Bridge schools, it ought to know the content of their curriculum.

"It is good to use technology as that is where we are headed in our schools. [But] we want to ensure that the technology used in our schools to teach, is in line with what the NCDC has prepared for learners," Muinda said. "So, if yours is completely off and we are not aware of it, we wonder why."

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