Bridge International Academies
Beyond alleys strewn with rubbish and lines of laundry suspended between rusted metal shacks, a rutted footpath leads to a brightly painted , an oasis of learning in one of Nairobi's most benighted spots.
With corrugated iron for walls, chicken wire across the windows, and wooden desks, it may seem nothing out of the ordinary. But there are few places in the slums where a teacher holds a piece of chalk in his right hand and a Nook e-reader in his left, and follows verbatim an electronic lesson plan crafted entirely by academics in Boston.
Charging $6 a month on average, Bridge International Academies, a multinational for-profit chain, is offering about as cheaply as it can be done. Its founders hope to roll that out to 10 million children across Africa and Asia, the key to its own longevity and, it hopes, the global educational conundrum that has bedevilled policy-makers.
But Bridge, which has expanded at such a rapid rate in six years that it is present in more than 400 locations across Kenya and Uganda, faces a potent threat to its survival in the shape of radical new teacher training proposals that would drive up the cost and put it beyond the reach of those that need it most.
"This could literally put every in the [low-cost] sector out of business tomorrow," said Whitney Tilson, who sits on Bridge's board as part of a $6m investment by the Pershing Square Foundation. "It would send a signal to the world that Kenya is a country you should never invest in as a private investor."
The proposals are likely to stoke further the debate over delivery of education to the poor across the developing world, where some 250 million children are still unable to read or write, despite many of them having been to school.
Bridge is arguably the most audacious answer yet to the question of how to bring education to the masses in countries where schools are plagued by overcrowding and teacher absenteeism.
Bridge International Academies: Scripted schooling for $6 a month is an audacious answer to educating the poorest children across Africa and Asia
A system in which every step of the learning process is remotely dictated could help make schooling affordable for some of the world's poorest children
Tuesday 28 July 2015