Kenya: Bridge International Academies-01/Kenya
Teachers and parents of students
Violation of national laws, health and safety, labor concerns, intimidation, discrimination
IFC has an active project with Bridge International Academies (the “Company”), Africa’s largest chain of low-cost schools. According to IFC, at the time of its investment in 2014, the Company operated 211 schools serving over 57,000 students in Kenya and aims to provide quality education to children from families earning less than US$2 per person per day. The investment was intended to support an increase in the number of schools in Kenya and expansion to 3 new countries.
In April 2018, CAO received a complaint from the East Africa Centre for Human Rights, a Kenyan NGO, filed on behalf of current and former parents and teachers in Kenya regarding Bridge International Academies. The complaint raises concerns about the Company’s compliance with Kenyan national curriculum requirements and IFC’s Performance Standards in terms of health and safety, and labor conditions. The complaint also cited concerns about economic discrimination, lack of parental inclusion, and transparency.
CAO found the complaint eligible for further assessment in May 2018. The CAO team conducted an assessment trip in September 2018. During CAO’s assessment, Bridge indicated their willingness to engage in a dispute resolution process, while the complainants preferred the complaint to be handled by CAO’s Compliance function. As consensus could not be reached on engaging in dispute resolution, which is voluntary, the complaint was referred to CAO’s Compliance function for appraisal in accordance with CAO’s Operational Guidelines.
CAO completed its compliance appraisal of the complaint in October 2019. CAO’s appraisal considered IFC efforts during supervision to assess and address concerns about sanitation at Bridge schools and, more recently, to review labor and working conditions. However, CAO concludes that there are substantial concerns regarding the Environmental & Social outcomes of IFC’s investment in Bridge considering: (a) the specific allegations of adverse impacts to teachers, parents and students raised in the complaints; (b) the Environmental & Social risk profile of the schools in light of their number, locations and concerns regarding their construction methods; and (c) the registration status of the schools and adherence to relevant health and safety requirements. CAO has decided that an investigation is merited in response on the issues raised in the complaint.
CAO is conducting a compliance investigation in response to this complaint. A CAO team visited Kenya from February 9-14, 2020 to meet with stakeholders as part of its ongoing compliance investigation related to IFC’s investment in Bridge International Academies. More details on the visit are outlined in a communiqué, available at the link below.
Status as of February 14, 2020