World Bank investment in Bridge International Academies in Kenya via its subsidiary organisation IFC* is to be investigated further by the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman**.
Following complaints to the CAO about Bridge’s operations in the African country, the ombudsman says its initial assessment of the complaints revealed ‘substantial concerns’ about environmental and social outcomes of the IFC’s investment in Bridge. These concerns cover:
1 Allegations of adverse impacts to teachers, parents and students;
2 The environmental and social risk profile of the schools taking into account their ‘number, locations and concerns regarding their construction methods’;
3 The schools’ registration status and whether they meet ‘relevant health and safety requirements.’
The initial assessment ‘does not entail a judgment on the merits of complaints,’ the ombudsman writes. Nevertheless, they were considered sufficiently serious to merit a full appraisal.
This investigation follows complaints about Bridge’s activities in the global south. In 2016, the Ugandan government closed Bridge schools after it found poor hygiene in shoddy buildings and teaching materials which didn’t ‘promote pupil interaction’. In 2017, a cross-party committee of MPs asked the Department for International Development to stop supporting Bridge. This followed a call to investors by 174 global civil society organisation to cease investment in Bridge. At the same time, research into low-cost schools in Liberia including ones run by Bridge found they weren’t cost-effective.
*The International Finance Corporation is a ‘distinct yet complementary organisation’ in the World Bank Group.
**The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman is the independent accountability mechanism for IFC and MIGA, the private sector arms of the World Bank Group. CAO's mission is to address complaints by people affected by IFC and MIGA projects.