Quality Affordable Schools Lift Up Marginalized Children

Access and Inclusion December 18, 2017

Joseph Barak, a 14-year-old from Koru, Kisumu County, western Kenya walked five kilometers through sugar plantations every day to attend his low-cost school. His parents, a small-scale farmer and a domestic helper, shared in Joseph’s struggle to get him to a high-quality school. Their efforts have paid off. Joseph’s high score in the Kenyan national primary school leavers exam (KCPE) has earned him a secondary education at a top-tier school. Something his parents and siblings never managed to achieve.

Joseph Barak

Joseph Barak

Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst place in the world to be a young learner. The region is home to more than half the world’s out-of-school children and only receives a quarter of global education aid.

Private schooling in Africa is common for low-income pupils and their families. Twenty-one percent of African children and young people are already being educated in the private sector, with this percentage likely to rise to one-in-four by 2021. Families sacrifice to educate their young. They expect their investment to pay long-term dividends. They expect schooling to open doors of opportunity for their children and subsequently for themselves. They realize that a quality education will greatly enhance their children’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, personal experience means that many of these families don’t trust government schools to adequately prepare their children. Still, paying for school is difficult. The less these families earn, the greater they must sacrifice. Sadly, affordable, high-quality schooling is rare.
This is why there is much to celebrate following the release of 2017 Kenya end of primary school exam results. Over 3,000 students at Bridge International Academies sat for the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and they strongly outperformed the Kenyan average, despite family incomes of about $2 per person per day. These hard-working Bridge pupils have proved, once again, that poverty isn’t destiny.

A comparison with Kenya countrywide data, shows Bridge pupils:

·      scored an estimated 20 marks more than their peers at government schools.
·      were 25% more likely to score above 300-marks than Kenyan pupils nationwide.
·      were 43% less likely to score below 200 marks and jeopardize secondary enrollment eligibility.
The results from 2017 continue a three-year trend of strong performance for Bridge students. Moreover, some of these data are from students who had only one academic year at Bridge. The average score for Bridge students increases for each year they have studied at Bridge. Students who have spent the majority of their primary education at Bridge (five or more years) are 40% more likely to pass the KCPE than the average Kenyan student.

KCPE success


These results are encouraging, especially when considered alongside the results we have seen for our pupils in West Africa. In Liberia this year we have been working with the government to change low performing public schools into high performing public schools. According to independent assessments, the children in the public private partnership schools run by Bridge have learned the equivalent of an extra year of schooling, compared to their peers in traditional Liberian primary schools.
Thus, the results in Kenya are neither a flash in the pan nor an outlier. The very opposite is true: they show a firm trend of how children are benefiting from the pedagogy and approach used by Bridge and other education providers.
To celebrate Bridge students’ performance is not to denigrate government schools. Many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have increased investment in education. We applaud this and are partnering with government school systems, such as Liberia’s Ministry of Education, to help them address the urgent need for quality education. Bridge strongly supports UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. Between now and the realization of SDG 4, Bridge will stand in the gap, providing an affordable option until families like Joseph’s have access to free, equitable and quality schooling.