Statistics indicate that more than 1.9 million children in Kenya aged six to 13 years do not attend school although primary school education is free and compulsory.

The reasons given by experts for this are child labor demands, stigma caused by a lack of fund to buy school uniforms,  truancy caused by households where there is little parental or guardian control, and family migrations.

But teachers also cite the lack of adequate and good facilities in schools. A recent effort to trace and bring to school, children in poor areas of Kwale in the coast, slums of Nairobi and Garissa in northern Kenya, identified thousands of children who were not in school. But teachers opposed admission of the children citing overcrowding and lack of teachers.

It is into this situation that a group of investors supported by a galaxy of international funding agencies such as Department of International Development (DfiD), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Zuckerberg Education Ventures have entered, causing waves within the education sector.

The group, Bridge International Academies says it was founded on the premise of “this massive market opportunity” and from the beginning, “we invested large sums of capital in research, development, technology, and curriculum before even the first pupil was admitted.”

Targeting low income areas, the group the organization now operates 405 private primary and nursery schools with a population of about 100,000 pupils.

Teaching Job Applicants

The impact is shown by the fact that a total of 2,776 teachers applied for 300 teaching vacancies that the organization recently advertised.

According to the organization, of the applicants 49 per cent were P1 trained teachers, about 13 per cent were ECDE trained and about 22 per cent had Bachelor’s degree in Education.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) and more than 10 civil society organizations have warned about the possibility lowering of education standards with investors hiring unqualified teachers.

Investors singled out for criticism by Knut include the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The funding from these financial institutions should be directed to public schools and not private institutions,” said Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion.

Mr Sossion said the schools are not supervised by the Education Ministry and therefore are compromising the quality of education. “We cannot allow the education sector to be privatized at all,” he added.

Bridge school say they charge about Sh600-700 per month and not Sh1,300.