In the wake of reports that the former Liberia Country Director of Bridge International Academies, Griffin Asigo, is still running the Liberia operations from his base in Kenya, Education Minister D. Ansu Sonii says there is no way for Mr. Asigo to run the program here while he is in Kenya. Minister Sonii affirmed that if Bridge Liberia fails to hire a competent Liberian to head the program before schools resume in the next few months, he will definitely not renew their contract.
“Bridge is not the only service provider here. There are six service providers. I only keep hearing problems with Bridge. It is for that particular reason that I almost came to the conclusion to shut down Bridge. The understanding we had was Bridge had already terminated the services of their Country Director that was here. So he had gone back to Kenya. There is no way he can be in Kenya and running the program here. There is a South African young man who is heading the program temporarily. I have asked them like every other service provider partnering with us that they get a Liberian who is aware of the protocols and is able to head the program. So they have to do that in the next few months before the school opens, before I renew their contract for the next time,” Minister Sonii disclosed recently when he addressed key education issues via the State broadcaster.
Minister Sonii said while Liberia needs the services of Bridge, as with all of the six LEAP service providers, however, the Government of Liberia will never allow Bridge to take advantage of the education system.
“I know there are many complaints against Bridge but the person who created most of those problems is no longer in this country. And the Board of Bridge had already made a decision that he is out of this country,” Minister Sonii stated.
The education minister’s tough stance follows the recent sacking of 17 employees by Bridge due to the indefinite closure of schools by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
Bridge Liberia on August 7, 2020 wrote the 17 affected staff, mainly from the operations department, informing them that the company no longer has any work for them.
According to the letter of termination to each of the 17 staff, Bridge HR boss Alimata Johnson justified the staffs’ sacking by stating: “This is following the indefinite closure of schools by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education on the 22nd of March, 2020 in response to the CONVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Bridge Liberia operations have been adversely affected. We have made every effort to find alternative employment for you within the company but unfortunately, there are no suitable positions available at this time. We know that this will be disappointing news and want to emphasize that this decision is not a reflection on your performance, but is based on the operational requirements of the organization going forward.”
Pundits are wondering as to the main reason for Bridge firing its staff, because the reason that Bridge gave regarding the Ministries of Education and Health indefinitely closure of March 22, 2020 is frivolous and false. At a matter of fact, the Ministry of Education has already released a timeline for schools to resume in Liberia.
“Bridge in fact wrote us a commitment in June 2020 indicating that everyone would have gone back to work. So the reason they stated for firing the 17 staff is absolutely false,” one of the whistleblowers stated.
“Interestingly, 95% of the affected staff are from the Operations Department, which smacks of a witch hunt. Moreover, no Schools Team member was affected. Schools Team is a department headed by Asigo Griffin, Country Director; and Corina Totimeh, Schools Director,” the whistleblower continued.
Whistleblowers at Bridge Liberia however informed this paper that the main reason for Bridge Liberia sacking 17 of its employees is because they were among those who refused to sign a letter from former Bridge Country Director Griffin Asigo requesting them to agree to 80-90 percent salary cuts at the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia.
Although all of the 17 sacked employees were requested to continue working up to September 6, 2020, which would be their official last day of work, up till last week the affected staff had not received a penny of their promised benefits comprising one month’s salary payment for each completed year of service, and one month salary payment in lieu of the one month notice period. The workers ended up storming Bridge’s 11th Street Sinkor head office recently in demand of their benefits and pay.
This outfit has also learned that before his transfer from Liberia as Country Director, Griffin Asigo had demanded all Bridge staff to sign a Solidarity Letter in July 2020, pledging their loyalty to the Bridge team and saying that Bridge is running the best program in Liberia.
Those who were dismissed are said to have not signed the Solidarity Letters nor did they agree to sign the March 2020 pay cut letter.
Meanwhile, Griffin Asigo, who was recently relieved of his Country Director position by Bridge Founder Shannon May, is still running the program, evidenced by the fact he was copied in all mails sent to the dismissed staff.
In fact, Bridge Founder Shannon May on July 29, 2020 wrote to all staff informing them that Griffin Asigo had been promoted to their New Opportunities team.
Shannon May said Mr. Asigo will facilitate the hiring of the next Liberia Managing Director, and will spearhead all of Bridge Liberia operations while the current Operations Director in Liberia, Stefan Oosthuizen, acts as Country Director.
“Until we have appointed a new Managing Director, Griffin will continue to lead our work in Liberia with the support of our current Operations Director in Liberia, Stefan Oosthuizen as the Acting Country Director,” Shannon May informed her employees in Liberia.