Kenyan citizens, parents and teachers file complaint against the World Bank for its funding to Bridge International Academies


(Washington, DC, 16 April 2018) Following repeated efforts to raise concerns about investments in Bridge International Academies, the Kenyan-based organisation East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights) and eight Kenyan citizens have today submitted a complaint to the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) via its Compliance Advisor Ombudsman regarding its investments in Bridge International Academies’ operations in Kenya. The complainants demand that the IFC take action to stop the harm caused by the multinational chain of low-cost primary schools.

In a press release published today, Linda Oduor-Noah, from EACHRights, stated: “EACHRights and other civil society organisations have met the World Bank and IFC team several times to raise issues regarding Bridge’s operations. To-date, no adequate steps have been taken to address the very concerning practices we have documented. The lack of accountability and transparency in this process, as well as lack of urgency in addressing these ongoing grave problems raises concerns about the IFC’s due diligence with respect to its investments. How can an institution like the Wold Bank, through the IFC, fund illegal private schools that make profit off poor parents?”

The complaint alleges that Bridge, in particular in Kenya, is committing serious violation of international and national law, and that the IFC’s investment is in breach of its own internal investment guidelines – called Performance Standards – related to labour rights, health and safety, and compliance with national laws. The violations of these standards are considered by the complainants to be inherent to Bridge International Academies’ model and incompatible with any IFC investment. The complainants demand that the IFC withdraw its investment and take measures to avoid future similar investments.

In solidarity with the complainants, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Oxfam International, and RESULTS Educational Fund welcome the submission of this complaint as it comes after several attempts by local and international organisations to raise the issue with the IFC. Since 2015 several meetings with World Bank staff were organised, and three joint statements have been sent to the World Bank and other investors in Bridge. The latest letter was sent on 1st March 2018, and in its response, the IFC President declined to take any immediate action.

This is despite the World Bank having been provided with a large amount of cross-checked independent evidence demonstrating, among other grave concerns, that Bridge lacks transparency and attempts to silence critics, has discriminatory impacts, appears to rely on exploitive labour practices, and violates educational, health and safety standards. Bridge International Academies operates 405 schools in Kenya, the first one since 2009, but only a few are legally registered.

Investors have a legal obligation to not violate human rights in their investments. As the complaint to the IFC process proceeds, local and international organisations will continue to support EACHRights and affected right-holders to address the ongoing concerns about Bridge International Academies’ operations.