By Peg Tyre
Last fall, when I visited Kawangware, a densely populated slum outside Nairobi, Kenya, the morning was bright, and a breeze provided a welcome respite from the smell of the open sewers that run like septic capillaries through the back streets and alleys.
Extreme poverty makes life difficult here, and H.I.V. and waterborne illness are rife. Most homes are one-room corrugated-metal shacks that lack electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. It was an unlikely place to open a for-profit private school. But there, along a pitted road, stood an outpost of Bridge International Academies, an ambitious experiment in bringing market-based education to communities like this around the world.
Stepping inside the green-painted metal fencing, I ducked into one of two low, rectangular school buildings, which had been constructed from rough-hewed wood and sheets of bright green metal.
From the hallway, one of Bridge’s founders, Shannon May, urged me to look through the chicken-wire windows. The dim, spare, well-swept classrooms had uneven concrete floors and no electric lights. Inside, a third-grade teacher was reading from a computer tablet, reciting a lesson script that had been transmitted from the Bridge headquarters in central Nairobi, a 45-minute drive away.
The instructor quietly spoke the lesson as he wrote on the chalkboard, explaining the math symbols that indicate ‘‘greater than’’ or ‘‘less than.’’ Twenty-three third-grade students, all dressed in bright green Bridge uniforms, were doing their best to follow along.
source: New York Times