PART I: Why the Government of Liberia should not extend Bridge International operations in Liberia

Johnson Yealue I

When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Werner brought educational brand Bridge International Academies to Liberia, hopes were risen that the nation’s educational program was up for a boost; four years later, nothing has changed.

The Liberia’s educational program remains shattered, kids remain seated on bare floors, school buildings remain dilapidated, several volunteer teachers remain unpaid and the learning gains continue to deteriorate while the company still makes millions globally.

This was exactly what Education International, CENTAL, National Teachers Association of Liberia and other groups said long before today, that the program did not mean well for Liberia and Liberians.

Today, Bridge International remains one of the worst employers in Liberia with at least seventeen employees arbitrarily redundant, several other cases languishing at Labor Ministry and an ongoing criminal police investigation of the company for alleged cyber-crime. Employments are mostly on who knows you and not merit based amongst others. In fact, the company’s current Acting Country Director, a South African is a high school student. How did Liberians and MOE authorities allow this to happen? Prof. Ansu Sonii, where is the iron and toughness you once carried? How can you look at these things happening without taking action?

Former Country Director, Griffin Asigo a Kenyan national was whisked out of Liberia on orders of top Education Ministry request for actions inimical to professionalism, key amongst them illegal dismissals, wanton abuse of power, disrespect for Liberian authorities and reported office romance. Interestingly, company’s owner Shannon May, with no respect also for Liberian authorities has the same Griffin Asigo running the company from the back, signing vouchers, writing emails and making company decisions for the Liberian program.

While the company redundant several for what they referred to as economic situation left behind by COVID19 as well as indefinite closure of school they are faced with, they within days uploaded vacancies for same roles redundant in flagrant disregard of the Labor Laws of Liberia, how can this even be happening when the law is quick to say, in case of rehiring, redundant persons must be given first priority.

Several employees locked offices, shut doors and placed the compound of Bridge in a chaotic mood recently for the company’s refusal to rehiring them or even paying their benefits under the redundancy program. Same employees redundant had gone to Ministry of Labor in the wake of COVID19 to resist a 90% cut in their salaries. Though reversed by MOL, Bridge continued to pay only 50% of salaries all through the pandemic. The redundancy action can be seen as clear with hunt and illegal dismissal.

Volunteer teachers in their hundreds are being left without salaries strictly on the orders of Bridge international management while government continues to pay teachers nationwide even in the wake of COVID19. Volunteer teachers remain cardinal contributors to Liberia’s education nationwide and Bridge had promised the government they would continue to pay these teachers until they make it to government payroll, why dash the hopes of these people now.

A Bridge employee reportedly in an office romance with former Country Director Griffin Asigo, Madam Corina Totimeh Wornee has sued several Liberian journalists for whooping 1.5 million damage with several global media organizations taking keen interest, yet the parent company ignores the action after atleast three employees wrote asking for investigation long before it went to press.

With all these controversies the company is caught up in, it is only prudent were the government to launch an investigation into the company’s operations and halt their extension.

Bridge International makes millions of dollars from Facebook owner Mark Zukerberg, Microsoft Owner Bill Gates amongst other key philanthropists but spend a little in Liberia. In fact these millions are not stored up in Liberian banks to improve the country’s economy but elsewhere. Which partner does that? Liberians, like we say ‘Shine your eyes.’

It is also being reported that the ‘For Profit’ company has been duping the Liberian government in thousands of dollars unpaid taxes under a scheme they are NGO or non for Profit when they are not.

The company is for profit and off impoverished kids’ backs, they make millions annually and spend little in host countries.

Watch Out for Part II

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