CTF media release: Canadian researcher safely released from Ugandan prison after false allegations made by Bridge International Academies Ltd.

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) is appalled a Canadian researcher was arrested and questioned by Ugandan police over two days because of false accusations made by an edu-business operating in that country.

Curtis Riep, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, was in Uganda working legitimately on behalf of Education International (EI) to study the impact of Bridge International Academies Ltd. (BIA). The company runs a chain of ‘low fee’ for-profit schools in Uganda as well as in Kenya, Nigeria and soon, Liberia.

In his own words, Riep explains: “The senior police officer investigating the case explained to me that BIA accused me of being an “enemy of Bridge” but they could not clarify what that meant exactly.”

On the day he was released, Riep says the police sat down with him and urged him to use caution because they suspected BIA would try to prevent him from conducting research.

“The police cautioned me not to go out at night, to move to a more secure hotel, not to interact with anyone I didn’t know, to restrict my movements, and to protect my research data and the information I had already collected on BIA,” says Riep who is now back at home in Calgary.

For her part, CTF President Heather Smith adds: “BIA’s attempt at intimidation demonstrates how the company fears transparency about its own operations. We know their practices have been the subject of significant criticism, including the employment of unqualified staff delivering a scripted standardised curriculum in inadequate school facilities.

“Our heartfelt thanks go to our partner organization, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union for coming to Riep’s defence—as if he were one of their members,” explains Smith. “We are also extremely grateful to the Canadian embassy for its help in securing Riep’s safe release.”

BIA’s expansion plans were recently halted by the Ugandan government for its failure to meet regulatory requirements applicable to schools. Its operations are supported by global edu-business Pearson, billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, DfID-UK and the World Bank, among others.