By Reuben Sei Waylaun
The government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education (MOE) has announced that it has begun probing allegation of sexual abuse at ‘More Than Me’, (MTM), an American nongovernmental organization operating several schools across the country for vulnerable girls.
According to the Ministry of Education, the decision follows an article released earlier last week by ProPublica, a newsfeed regarding the conduct of one of several partners of the LEAP School program in Liberia. Liberia Education Advancement Program (LEAP) is a pilot program run by the Ministry of Education and selected non-state school operators.
ProPublica, a US non-profit media entity was the first to expose the incidence of extensive sexual abuse at the MTM Charity, which was established by Katie Meyler back in 2009, to help get girls from the street by putting them in school.
The investigation which was conducted in collaboration with Time Magazine uncovered that upon its formation, MTM began a breeding ground for sexual abuse, perpetrated mainly by a man identified as the co-founder of the charity, Macintosh Johnson.
Johnson, an ex-combatant, was said to be having a sexual relationship with Meyler, while running the charity which reportedly shielded itself under the disguise of innocent Liberian girls to go on to raise more than US$8m in funding with almost US$600,000 of the amount coming from the US Government.
When news broke about the wanton abuse at the charity NGO in 2014, Johnson was then arrested, prosecuted and sentenced. Though he died in prison, reportedly of HIV, Johnson left a trail of victims, who are to live with the plague of abuse, perpetrated by a man who posed as a guardian at a safe home.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued over the weekend in Monrovia by its Communications Director, Maxime Bleetahn, the ministry says it is just as concerned over the story that speaks to the abuse of Liberian school children in 2014 between the ages 12-16 years respectively.
“The Ministry of Education takes all incidents of sexual assault against students extremely serious and will speedily inquire into the article to ascertain the details of allegations made.
“We are aware that our first duty is to protect our children while educating them,” the ministry’s statement reads.
The ministry has assured the public that its official statement will be made public when the information needed to draw a conclusion in the allegation is satisfactorily established.
Earlier, Alexandra Fallon, who is the Chief Program Officer of the MTM Charity, told the Liberia News Agency that ten female students, who contracted HIV after they were reportedly raped by Johnson, are currently in school on the charity scholarship.
“Our organization regrets the action by Macintosh Johnson and we are putting into place the necessary mechanism so that such act will not be repeated by any of our staffs,” Fallon said.