World Bank ombudsman probes death of Bridge Academies pupil


A Bridge International Academies centre in Nairobi in 2016. FILE PHOTO | NMG

World Bank’s investigative body, Compliance Adviser/Ombudsman (CAO), says it will investigate an alleged death by electrocution of a pupil at slum-based Bridge Academies.

The agency said in a notice that the investigations at the school in Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums will revolve around “health and safety, access to information and redress at Bridge Academies.”

CAO is an independent watchdog reporting to the World Bank and reviews complaints from communities affected by development projects undertaken by the World Bank’s lending arms IFC and MIGA.

The school has in the past been funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

IFC has pumped millions of shillings into Bridge International Academies, which describes itself as Africa’s largest chain of low-cost schools.

“In February 2020, CAO received a complaint from a parent of a student enrolled at the Bridge International Academy Kwa Njenga Msq (Bridge), in Kenya, with support from the East Africa Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights), a Kenyan NGO,” said CAO in an update posted on its website dated 18 June 2020.

“The complaint concerns the alleged electrocution and subsequent death of her son, while at school.”

In 2016, teachers’ unions in Kenya joined hands with civil society groups in demanding the closure of Bridge International Academies for allegedly flouting quality standards, shining the spotlight on slum-based institutions as the government proposed strict rules for informal schools.

The school’s management at the time rejected the allegations insisting it plays a critical role in plugging the gaps in Kenya’s education sector.

The low-cost Bridge Academies boasted a population of 100,000 pupils in 2016. It acquires land in slums like Mathare and Kibera to set up schools. A typical Bridge school sits on a half-acre plot.

The Bridge schools have in the past been supported by high-profile organisations, among them the World Bank Group, the Commonwealth Development Corporation and Omidyar Network.

The watchdog said its assessment does not entail a judgment on the merits of complaints.

“Rather, the aim is to listen to people’s concerns, understand the different perspectives, and determine what options are available to address the complaint through CAO's Dispute Resolution and Compliance functions,” it said.