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UGANDA: Regime apologists back at attacking Bridge Schools again

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A classroom session at one of Bridge Schools Academies

We’re simply teaching robots, Bridge Schools teachers admit

Written by URN (THE OBSERVER) – Kampala

Teachers at embattled Bridge International Academies have admitted that they don’t own or prepare content they teach to their students.

URN has visited at least five Bridge Schools in Kawempe, Wakiso and Nasana, interacting with the teachers and residents to assess the state of the schools that the ministry of Education says are operating without licences.

Since 2014, Bridge has established at least 63 academies in Uganda, and in a recent interview, Bridge Academies country director, Morrison Rwakakamba, said that they would want to open as many as a thousand schools.Bridge academies opened a new technology savvy chapter in Uganda’s education system; with teachers using tablet computers to conduct lessons. The teachers, however, admit that they don’t know the source of the information that they teach. The teaching materials are loaded unto teachers’ tablets who then download and deliver them to pupils.

“We are told that there are people at Bridge Schools country offices who develop teaching lessons and upload them for us,” a teacher told URN.

“We are told that lessons are taught uniformly in all Bridge Schools across the country. If we are teaching primary five pupils science here between 2:00PM to 4:00PM, that is what other schools will be teaching.”

Another teacher said; “We are told some of the lessons we teach are developed by people outside Uganda. The only job we are required to do is to go in class and teach children what is given to us on computers.”

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Some of the content, a teacher said, is hard to explain to pupils because the teachers are required to follow robotic instructions on how to explain content without deviation.

What the teachers told URN correlates with the September 2016 study by Curtis Riep and Mark Machacek on the operation of Bridge Schools in Uganda. The study is titled; “Schooling the Poor Profitably: the innovations and deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda.”

The study says instructional materials are pre-programmed and “centrally developed by Bridge at headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts and Nairobi, Kenya, and sent electronically to each school site using web-enabled smartphones that transfer curriculum to tablet e-readers.”

The “teacher computers” as Bridge calls them are highly controlled by the computers. The scripted lessons given to Bridge teachers for instance involves step by step instructions explaining what teachers should do and say during any given moment of a class.

For instance, the computer guides teachers on when to shout a word, when to write it on a blackboard, and when to call a pupil to write or even rub the word off the blackboard.

A scripted Bridge Academies English lesson seen by URN on their tablets for instance reads; “the next word is ‘maize.’ Call on a pupil to come to the board and write ‘maize.’ If the pupil spells it well, give him/her cheers. If the pupil spells it incorrectly, call on another pupil to come up and correct the spelling. Rub the board….”

On its website, Bridge justifies that the use of teacher computers, containing world-class lesson plans based on national curriculums, brings a high quality education to some of the remotest parts of Africa.

“By taking the stress out of planning lessons, our teachers are able to focus on the pupils, give time to those that are struggling and go round the classroom answering questions,” they argue.

By linking up community members with tablet computers containing scripted instruction, Bridge argues that “we are giving our pupils access to the types of teachers they would never be able to afford.”

Curtis Riep and Mark Machacek observed that since all aspects of instruction and pedagogy are controlled and automated through the use of teacher-computers, Bridge assumes it does not require professionally-trained or certified teachers.

They said Bridge has established its own Bridge International Training Institutes where it provides three-week teacher-training programmes for new recruits.

They further observed that about 80 percent of Bridge teachers are unqualified and the curriculum they teach is not approved by National Curriculum Development Centre.

For over a week, the Bridge International Academies Uganda officials were not available to comment on this story. The director Education Standards at the ministry of Education and Sports, Dr Kedrace Turyagyenda, told URN that according to the teachers’ professional code of conduct, every teacher is supposed to plan, prepare lessons and teach their content.

“A teacher is supposed to prepare teaching content bearing in mind that children are different. A teacher has to take into account these individual differences. That is the expected international standard,” she says.

For instance, she says teachers teaching pupils in the same class in different areas or year after year must be cognisant that they are different learners. The preparation of teaching materials she says necessitates taking into account these differences.

Indeed the teachers’ professional code of conduct says a teacher shall “prepare relevant schemes of work, lesson notes teaching aids well in advance to ensure effective teaching and learning and set an adequate amount of written and practice exercises promptly for effective teaching and learning.”

East African education NGO, Uwezo country coordinator, Dr Mary Goretti Nakabugo, told this reporter that Bridge should follow national guideline and curriculum.

To discuss Bridge Schools’ curriculum and teaching technology, education consultant Fagil Mande says it is like flogging a dead horse and overstepping the legs.

“Haven’t they been told to close? When we discuss that question is like we are leaving behind a bigger question. If they have been told to close that means something is wrong. Those could be part of the reasons why they have been told to close,” Mande said.

The ministry of Education permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, told URN that school owners who defied the ministry’s directive will be charged.

“Unlike Uganda Revenue Authority, we don’t have seals to lock buildings of schools and say you can’t open until you have come back. Once, we serve you with the notice, we have already closed you,” he said.

Kakooza revealed that he has written to the permanent secretary Ministry of Local Government to charge owners who are operating closed schools.


Kakwaya: Nonsense. We are living in a changing world. In this era, i do not see the need for the teacher to spend so much time preparing lesson plans when someone else can do it.

These kids do standardized exams, so this rubbish of using local…i do not what is completely irrelevant.

In the U.S, teachers no longer prepare lessons plans as they do exactly what bridge schools are trying to do here. Style up, losers.

Martha Leah Nangalama – Thanks Kakwaya for your comment.

Closing Bridge Schools is entirely for shutting off affordable good quality education from he masses and forcing parents to go to he NRM regime people private schools. I did 2 articls on this issue.

In addition, in Canada also, teachers do not waste time preparing lessons which are already prepared.  So Ugandans need to wake up to know that Museveni hates an educated population.

AND it is a new world. Kids are even now doing a lot of courses ONLINE. I have no idea how many courses my kids have taken online instead of class.  Ranging from Computer Courses, Chemistry, Law to Latin and even Maths.  Ugandans need to stop behaving like cavemen.  Did you see the performance from the so-called really good schools?  DESPICABLE.  Government schools are cranking out illiterate kids and these NRM apologists have the audacity to say that the Bridge Schools are not per standard?

Which standard exactly?  The Mango Tree UPE school in Bududa or that shack in Sironko?  See some pictures below.  OR are we talking about the schools like where Museveni’s daughters went?  Like Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga?  How much does that school cost per term these days anyway?  AND mind you, we might be talking about primary schools like Namugongo PS or Namagunga PS or is it NTARE HIGH?  Morons!

By the time these NRM apologists wake up, there won’t be anyone left in the country with half a brain.  We will all be singing HALLOWED BE MUSEVENI!

Ugandans need to be fully awake. Museveni planned long ago to destroy everything that was Ugandan and rebuild it his own way.  Our blog has a lot about Museveni’s plans but few read and pay attention.  For example the following link leads you to something crucial.  How Museveni destroyed past infrastructures built by the colonial government, Dr. Milton Obote and Gen. Iddi Amin.


By the way, half of the teachers in the UP TO STANDARD schools in Uganda are illiterate. Ask World Bank to give you the last survey that found that primary school teachers in Uganda are illiterate.

#3 Patrick Ntambi 2018-03-27 21:17
The reasons given by the Ministry and some of the consultants are absurd.

Today, education is about learning outcomes. In simple terms, what should the students know by the end of grade 7?

We know by PLEs. The Bridge teachers are utilizing ICT to deliver quality instruction consistently across their schools.

I have doubts that half the teachers in UPE schools deliver better quality instruction.

lets not pretend that UPE schools offer better education; if they did, parents would not take their kids to Bridge schools.

With all due respect to Dr. Fagil Mandy, lets taste the students and Bridge academy and those in UPE schools in Mubende, Gulu and karamoja and see how they compare, have the , how do we know that they know it.

Robotic learning? robots are outperforming and out-thinking humans in many respects, that why we have computers!

it is hypocrisy for the PS of education to shut down better schools while government schools lack basics like classrooms and toilets.

#4 Paul Kitandwe 2018-03-28 08:21
This government is simply scared that at last Bridge schools have come up to rescue Ugandans who were getting substandard education in UPE schools.

None of these officials taking take theirtheir kids to UPE schools because of the poor standards.

The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Let us compare UPE kids with those from Bridge schools and see who performs better before Mandy and his team start talking nonsense

#5 ejakait engoraton 2018-03-28 18:05
AFRICANS hate change and innovation. You will realise that nothing that we make or produce goes through a production process that follows set procedures and guidelines.

Instead we play it by nose and ear. That is why we have no standardization and you will find that the size of bricks for instance varies from area to area and kilombe to kilombe.

So if one is building a house, one person will tell you you need 1000 bricks , and another 2000 just because they are talking about different sizes.

You will find that the waragi brewed by Mama Martha has a different potency to that brewed by “Beere ddene” or Mama Small, and even then their own brews are different on different days.

A friend once told me that if a car had dropped from heaven and landed in AFRICA , but missing the tyres, up to now it would not have moved, and instead they would have plucked off the side mirrors to use at home and used the wheel caps as plates and cannibalized the rest

#6 ejakait engoraton 2018-03-28 18:15
FAGIL MANGY has always given me the impression of someone who should have been a stand up comedian , than in anything that requires seriousness, even though at some point even being a comedian requires being serious.

These people are acting like most of the nobles and entrepreneurs acted at the abolition of slave trade.

These people whose intentions are to enslave UGANDANS by keeping them uneducated , in poor heath and in poverty, see these schools as a threat to the status quo and to their long held ill intentions.

M7 for instance is happy to promise women free sanitation pads, which he does not eventually provide, instead of providing opportunities for them to make money and buy their own.

Such is the EVIL among our RULERS, who are now seeing one of their fortresses ( provision of poor education), being attacked or destroyed.

#7 Robert Atuhairwe 2018-03-28 19:29
Standardization is essential. Question is, how did these schools get on the ground?

0#8 rubangakene 2018-03-28 20:52
Computers/ modern technology should be used to ease and enhance the learning experience of pupils.

The qualified teacher should be the one to guide and manage the total education of the child through interaction, differentiation and appropriate remedial measures.

I wonder how the computers will be used to teach sports, drama, debating and other stuff that must prepare and nurture the whole child for further life in society.

Adapt education for Uganda needs, not for these kids eventually to seek ‘cheyo’ work in the Middle East.

#9 Patrick Ntambi 2018-03-28 22:58
The article’s premise is that standardized curriculum, and standardized delivery where the teacher is aided by ICT/Ipad is robotic or sub-standard.

If any of these officials have been on a plane to Dubai or London, those planes fly on “auto-pilot” 70% of the time.

In the USA, over 250K college/university students study on-line. No on-site teachers required. Bridge Schools are the future!!

#10 Jerome 2018-03-29 08:15
Closing these schools is a very big mistake. The way bridge schools is conducting its lessons is pretty much good as it ensures that all students at all of its locations get the same quality education at the lowest possible cost.

Its quite simple, get one super teacher to develop the lesson plans and content and have this shared across to all other teachers to follow.

Doing this does not in anyway stop a teacher in class from handling the students according to their abilities.

The ministry should instead just copy and try to apply the same to ensure that a student at Bat Valley PS or Buddo Junior and students in some rural schools like kiboga, kabong and the like are instructed using the same standard.

The should also concentrate on seeing whether the lesson plans are in line with the curriculum developed by the ministry.

#11 ejakait engoraton 2018-03-29 11:25
IT defeats any logic that one can try to come up with.

Pupils at the end of the year or at any critical stage, that is Primary Leaving Exams, are given exactly the same exams, whether in Kampala or Karamoja, whether at Buddo Junior or some Mango Tree primary, yet they do not want a system that teaches them in exactly the same or at least similar fashion.

Right from our politics, to job opportunities, there are those who are bent on seeing that there is no level playing field.

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