Kenya: Securing remedy and accountability for survivors of child sex abuse

Bridge International Academies


Bridge International Academies provides low-cost education to students in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and India, achieving its results in part through extreme cost-cutting measures that have created unsafe conditions for its students, according to an independent investigation. In recent years, many Bridge students have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by teachers and are seeking remedy and accountability from Bridge and its investors, including the World Bank Group.


ProjectFor-profit education
Companies: Bridge International Academies, NewGlobe
Key concerns:
  • Child sex abuse
  • Lack of accountability and reparations for harm
Community goals:Meaningful reparations, including financial compensation for survivors of abuse and legal accountability for perpetrators.
Key investors and financiers:International Finance Corporation, Bill Gates Investments, British International Investment (formerly CDC), European Investment Bank, FMO, Jay Kimmelman, Learn Capital, Novastar Ventures, Omidyar Network, Shannon May, New Enterprise Associates, United States Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC), Proparco, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Our key partners:Accountability Counsel, Oxfam, Wangu Kanja Foundation

Between 2013-2022, the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested over US$13 million to help Bridge International Academies rapidly expand its network of private schools in Kenya and beyond. Bridge employed unlicensed teachers and ran a large number of unregistered schools, with few child protection safeguards in place, increasing the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation of its pupils.

In 2018, a Kenyan nonprofit filed a complaint with IFC’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), citing labor abuses, unfair fees, and unqualified teachers at Bridge schools. When CAO’s investigators went to Nairobi to look into the complaint, they spoke with community members who also told them about numerous instances of alleged sexual abuse by Bridge teachers. The CAO launched a separate investigation focused on the allegations.

Shocking reports have since emerged that IFC management conspired with Bridge founders to cover up the abuse allegations, “neutralize” the CAO staff leading the investigation, and delay publication of its report—at least in part to avoid “spooking” prospective Bridge investors who they were trying to court at the time.

The CAO report, which was finally published in 2024, following high-profile news coverage and civil society outrage at IFC’s reported interference, found that Bridge’s lack of safeguards had resulted in dozens (and likely many more) Bridge students being sexually assaulted by their teachers, and that the IFC contributed to this tragedy by failing to conduct adequate due diligence to ensure that the schools were safe, and by looking the other way after multiple cases of abuse were brought to its attention.

Since reports of IFC management interference with the CAO investigation came to our attention in early 2023, Inclusive Development International has worked with investigative journalists and civil society partners to expose the truth and hold those responsible at the highest levels of the World Bank to account, while supporting the survivors in Kenya in their demands for meaningful redress.

Our Actions

Inclusive Development International first got involved in this case because we were appalled at the unprecedented attack on the independence of the CAO—a mechanism that has been instrumental in so many of our cases, where we are supporting communities harmed by IFC investments around the world to pursue remedy and accountability. We also saw an opportunity in the CAO process, despite its flaws, for survivors of abuse at Bridge schools to get redress. And we know that the way the World Bank board responds to this egregious case of Bank complicity in harm will set a precedent for whether and how it remediates harm in all future cases investigated by the CAO.

After the damning allegations of abuse occurring at Bridge schools and IFC management’s interference in the case came to light, we worked with our global civil society partners to demand accountability  from World Bank president Ajay Banga and the Bank’s board. We insisted on the full and unredacted disclosure of the CAO investigation report, and for IFC management to respond with a plan to provide meaningful remedy for the survivors in Kenya. We also called for an independent investigation of the cover-up and whistleblower protections for the compliance investigator who has faced retaliation for bringing these issues to light. We engaged with US policy makers, including Ranking Member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Peter Welch, who sent letters to the US Treasury Department and World Bank president echoing our demands. We helped secure coverage from the Financial Times and New York Times. And we collaborated with Accountability Counsel, Oxfam and local partners in Kenya to reach out to Bridge survivors and support them to communicate their remedy expectations directly to the World Bank board of directors.

Following this high-profile attention to the case, which came as IFC management was developing its response to the investigation, the CAO report was finally published, in early 2024, alongside IFC’s action plan for addressing the CAO’s findings.

World Bank president Banga wrote to bank staff the night before the report and plan were made public, acknowledging the IFC’s responsibility in this case, expressing his commitment to both support the survivors in Kenya and take steps to prevent abuse through the bank’s investment portfolio, and accepting our call for an independent, external investigation of the IFC management cover-up. The US Treasury Department and several other World Bank shareholders have also taken strong positions in favor of providing meaningful redress to the Bridge survivors, informed by robust consultations with the survivors themselves.

IFC’s Management Action Plan was an improvement from earlier drafts, reflecting calls from survivors, alongside Inclusive Development International, our partners and US policymakers, for assurances that they would be consulted on the design of the “remediation program” that IFC proposes to establish in Kenya. This is the first time an IFC Management Action Plan, responding to a CAO investigation into harms caused by an IFC-financed project, has included a commitment to directly fund remedial actions.

Despite these improvements, we have expressed concern that IFC’s plan fails to include financial compensation for the devastating harms the Bridge survivors have suffered, in part due to IFC’s due diligence failures. Rather than working with Bridge International Academies to provide compensation and psychosocial support to the children who were abused while in the care of Bridge schools, as recommended by the CAO, the IFC proposes instead to fund “existing programs” that support survivors of child sexual abuse in Kenya across the board. The only financial support that the IFC proposes to provide to survivors is reimbursement for expenses that would enable them to access these services—such as bus fare or lost wages—on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, we remain hopeful that, as the IFC designs this program it will respond directly to the demands of Bridge survivors and heed the U.S. Treasury’s call to “keep all remedy options on the table.”

Inclusive Development International is working with the survivors who submitted complaints to support them in engaging with IFC management and to ensure that the remedies they are seeking are in fact delivered through IFC’s Management Action Plan.

We also welcomed President Banga heeding our call for an independent, external investigation of allegations of IFC management interference in the CAO investigation of IFC’s investments in Bridge International Academies. Along with our partners, we wrote a letter to the World Bank Directors containing recommendations for the scope and design of the investigation, and urging that it is both thorough and independent. We called on the Board to ensure that it results in recommendations designed to address ongoing efforts to undermine the independence and integrity of the CAO, including those related to the Bridge investigation, as well as the underlying, systemic problems that enabled IFC’s interference in this process. This includes the use of non-disclosure agreements, management’s participation in the selection process for the CAO Director General, the inadequate application of whistleblower protections at the World Bank Group, and IFC management’s interest in limiting CAO’s authority and ability to independently carry out its work.


Bridge International Academies (Bridge) is the world’s largest for-profit education company. It was started by two Harvard graduates who moved to Nairobi, Kenya for their business venture in 2008 and received funding from a variety of investors, including the IFC, the U.K.’s development bank, the European Investment Bank, and initiatives linked to Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar and the billionaire hedge fund mogul Bill Ackman, among others.

Bridge’s business model depended on minimizing costs as much as possible to provide a cheap education to many students, including scrimping on teacher salary, infrastructure, and more. Bridge employed unlicensed teachers and ran a large number of unregistered schools, with few child-protection safeguards in place. An investigation by the IFC’s internal watchdog, the CAO, revealed that this lack of safeguards resulted in dozens (and likely many more) Bridge students being sexually assaulted by their teachers. The report also concluded that the IFC contributed to this tragedy by failing to conduct adequate due diligence to ensure that the schools were safe and looking the other way after multiple cases of abuse were brought to its attention.

IFC quietly divested from Bridge in March 2022 and has been accused of attempting to cover up the CAO’s findings. A conspiracy between Bridge and IFC management to “neutralize” the CAO was memorialized in notes by IFC staff (which were later leaked and published by the Intercept) and then implemented exactly as planned. The head of the CAO was terminated in the middle of his second term and replaced with a new Director General who has been seen as more friendly to IFC Management. Following the change of leadership at CAO, the Head of Compliance who was leading the Bridge investigation was promptly demoted, taken off the case and then placed on administrative leave. Meanwhile, IFC signed a wide-ranging non-disclosure agreement with Bridge in the middle of the investigation, in a clear attempt to stop the CAO’s findings from seeing the light of day, lest they “spook investors” during the fundraising round that Bridge was engaged in at the time.

IFC’s Board of Directors has approved a Management Action Plan responding to the CAO investigation and the CAO is monitoring implementation of that plan. Inclusive Development International is supporting survivors of sexual abuse at Bridge schools to engage in the consultation process that will inform the implementation of that plan. In May 2024, the World Bank announced that it is hiring an outside firm to “explore the circumstances surrounding the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman’s (CAO) investigation of IFC’s investment in Bridge International Academies,” following prolonged calls from civil society organizations, U.S. lawmakers, and other stakeholders.

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