High Court of Uganda denies Bridge International Academies' application to suspend Ministry order to close unlicensed schools
In a judgement, dated 16 March 2018, the High Court of Uganda at Kampala denied Bridge International Academies’ (Bridge) interim injunction application seeking to maintain operations while the company’s licensing is under review. As such, all 63 Bridge schools should, by law, currently be closed in Uganda. Earlier this year, Bridge filed the injunction to challenge the directive from the Ugandan Ministry of Education that all unlicensed schools should not reopen for the 2018 academic year. In this recent ruling, the court has found that Bridge’s conduct “speaks to a high level of reckless disregard of national institutions set up to ensure qualitative education in the country.” Contrary to the responsibilities set out in the Education (Pre-Primary, Primary and Post-Primary) Act (2008), the court found that Bridge has been “operating illegally because they have no provisional or other licences” and have only initiated negotiations with the Ministry following the decision to close the schools.
This action came after several warnings by the Ministry for Bridge to comply with licencing requirements, or it would face closure. In August 2016, the Ugandan Minister of Education and Sports, formally announced that the Government would close schools operated by Bridge. In November 2016 a court order authorized the closure of the schools. Bridge did not appeal the order.
In April 2017, a Parliamentary report found that the Ministry had the authority to close private schools operating with out licences, including Bridge schools. Notices to comply with the minimum standards were issued to these institutions. In a letter of 29th January 2018, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports of Uganda regretted that Bridge was feeding “false hopes” to parents by not indicating that Bridge schools would not be allowed to open.
In a press release dated 6 February 2018, the Government of Uganda reiterated that Bridge schools “will not be permitted to open/operate this school year (2018).” Despite the efforts by the Government of Uganda to implement their obligation to monitor and regulate private schools in accordance with the law, Bridge reopened for the 2018 academic year. In response to this action, civil society organisations called on the US-based company to comply with the Government decision and stop undermining the right to education.