Kenya: Whistleblower union receives support after threats

published 6 April 2017 updated 11 April 2017

Education International’s Executive Board stands in solidarity with the Kenyan National Union of Teachers, which is the subject of threats and attempted intimidation for questioning Bridge International Academies’ operations.

Under the title “Bridge International Academies adds intimidation to its business plans”, the Executive Board of Education International (EI) has adopted a special resolution in support of its Kenyan affiliate, the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT). The resolution states EI’s concern about the legal proceedings by Bridge International Academies’ (BIA) against KNUT and its General Secretary, Wilson Sossion, in reaction to criticism of its business plan. The union is vocal in exposing BIA’s operations which undermine the achievement of inclusive and equitable quality education for pupils in Kenya.

As a result of these legal proceedings an injunction has been issued prohibiting the union and its general secretary from making statements regarding BiA. Education International sees this as an infringement on the right and responsibility of its member organisations to campaign in the interest of quality education for all, and states in its resolution that “these actions represent a clear violation of core ILO Standards (87 and 98) and are in contrivance of the ILO UNESCO Recommendations on the Status of the Teaching Profession (Article 26).”

Below-standard education

Reports and academic research on the business strategy of BiA in Kenya and other countries have brought to light that the company maximizes its profits by cutting costs through the employment of unqualified staff, who delivers a high scripted standardised curriculum in substandard facilities.

In February 2017 a court in Kenya ordered the closure of Bridge schools in the city of Busia for non-compliance with basic educational standards. In its recommendations, the board had highlighted the fact that the schools did not employ trained and registered teachers. The report also noted the lack of appropriate facilities.

Solidarity with KNUT

In its resolution the Executive Board of EI “condemns this attempted intimidation by Bridge International Academies, [and] expresses its solidarity for the KNUT and its General  Secretary.” It will explore all means necessary to protect the KNUT so that it can continue to “pursue its policy objectives consistent with EI congress decisions”, and resolves to intensify efforts to expose Bridge International Academies and its supporters for their “willful disregard of the Sustainable Development Goal 4”.

The 32-million member organisation also will  mobilise support from affiliates and allies.