African School Network

I met Jay Kimmelman through Norm Atkins. Jay has started a network of schools in Kenya. Bridge Academies.

Jay explained:

*There are 700 million kids in the world whose parents earn < $2/day.

*21% of that income goes towards school, whether it's tuition at a "private school" or hidden fees at "free school." Families enroll their kids in the privates at slightly higher rate, 55% to 45%.

Evidently there is no realistic way to affect the "free" gov't run schools there. No ed reform, whatever your ed reform tastes may be.

But it is possible to build a private school model that families prefer over current ones.

Bridge has 83 schools serving 26,000 kids already. They just launched 2 years ago. Jay picks densely populated areas. 90% of the kids live with 400 meters of the school! The parent demand is huge. So growth is staggering.

The only plausible teacher supply are villagers, so the curriculum is heavily scripted, with remarkably good data coming back electronically about how each lesson went....trends by school, by content standard, etc.

Jay needs a Chief Academic Officer. If I didn't work for Match, I'd covet a job like this. I'd keep my residence in Boston and travel to Kenya sometimes. Jay told me the right person can have that deal. Live in USA, travel as needed.

Seems like a needle in a haystack. Person needs a great sense of how kids learn, yet an intuitive sense for working at scale, across multiple cultures. Bridge will grow in other nations, including India.

I can't think of any job remotely comparable here. The scale people in USA attempt to solve totally different problems (typically overcoming inertia and politics). The folks at TFA and many high-performing charters are used to Ivy grad workaholic teachers, not villagers.

But there's gotta be someone who would be a great fit as CAO. On the remote chance you can think of someone Jay should talk to, just drop me a line, or visit the Bridge website and drop Jay a note.

And what a CAO puzzle to solve! Parents want these schools. Bridge opens a new school every 3 days. Within a few weeks, typically that new school is enrolled with 300 paying kids. Tuition is something like $5/month. Typically no electricity, so extensive digital learning might be tough.

I'd love for my e-pal Mrs. Kombo to visit a Bridge Academy; would be curious for her perspective on how a Bridge Academy compares to other African private (or free) schools for low-income families.