A HIGHLY controversial pilot scheme in which 93 schools were outsourced to a private company in Liberia is over-spent and unsustainable, a leaked think tank report reveals.
Bridge International Academies (BIA), the private shack school outfit bankrolled by the world’s richest man Bill Gates, is spending more than 20 times the amount per pupil as originally stated.
The National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) raised the alarm over the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) scheme after a summary of the report Can Outsourcing Improve Liberia’s Schools? was leaked on Wednesday.
Although it found that student learning had increased by 60 per cent compared to state schools, NTAL President Mary Mulbah noted that the improvements had been achieved “on the back of increased funding ranging between 100 per cent to 2,000 per cent more than public schools.”
At the Bridge schools the national allowance of $50 US (£38) per pupil was doubled to $100 (£76) as a “realistic medium-term goal for public expenditure.”
But BIA spent up to $1052 (£800) per pupil — despite laying off 74 per cent of teachers.
“The programme has yet to demonstrate that it can work in average Liberian schools, with sustainable budgets and staffing levels, and without negative side effects on other schools,” the report concluded.
Global teaching union federation Education International said: “With its billionaire funders footing the bill, Bridge has gone to any length to try to convince the public that it has the answer to quality education.”
The Liberian government announced it was outsourcing scores of primary schools to BIA in January 2016.
Following protests over the apparent sweetheart deal, the scheme was opened up to rival bidders and 93 schools were tendered out to eight firms.
Education Minister George Werner pledged to review the results after one year before continuing the scheme. But earlier this year, just six months into the trial, he announced PSL would be expanded to 202 schools.
Ms Mulbah said: “The negative findings of this report may explain the minister’s rush to expand the privatisation programme.
“What is most disturbing is that in many instances the improved student outcomes were achieved by pushing out students from schools on the ‘trial’.
“In some cases this has resulted in children being left out of school.”
BIA’s network of 63 “lowfee” private schools in Uganda was shut down by the Education Ministry last year after it found they were not meeting basic educational or sanitary standards, putting pupils’ health at risk.