Letter To President Sirleaf On The Need To Change The School Year

From Sonkarley T. Beaie 

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 1, 2015



 Dear Mr. Editor,

Please publish this letter to the President for me.

I sent this letter attached directly to the President by FeDEx and was given a very good response through the Minister of State. However, I am very surprised at this time after reading such suggestions for the Ministry of Education to announce about closure of schools in order to update the school calendar. And not only that, for the President to be in full support of the proposal by the Minister. I therefore, have no alternative, but to ask you to publish the letter so the public can see my view and suggestions.

The analytical reasons for the worldwide school calendar attached had been previously published, but this one is an edited version giving some more detail.

Best regards.

Sonkarley T. Beaie 

 Here is the letter:

Bureau of Statistics
74 High Street, Kingston
Georgetown, Guyana
Guyana, South America
January 6, 2015

Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President, Republic of Liberia
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Monrovia, Liberia

Subject: Request to Revert to Former Academic Year in Liberia
Your Excellency Madam President:

I have the honor most respectfully to thank you and Officials of your Government for ably handling the Ebola crisis, and secondly for the silence of gun sounds around the country evidenced by the relative peace since coming to power. Now that the Ebola crisis is waning and your government may be contemplating the resumption of normal operations, particularly the re-opening of schools around the country, I am pleased to seek this opportunity to appeal to you through this letter to consider reverting to the “Early March to December School Calendar in Liberia” which was amended and changed by the Taylor Administration.

I am a Liberian living and working here in Georgetown, Guyana with my wife and two children. I was hired by the UNDP in Liberia in 2004 to serve as a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) to work in the capacity as a national demographic consultant attached to the Bureau of Statistics. The Bureau operates as an autonomous government agency under the Guyana’s Ministry of Finance. The Government of Guyana employed me in the same position after my three years tenure of service with the UNDP ended; and we have been residing in Guyana since that time.

Madam President, this is my second time raising this issue of “First Day of an Academic Year in Liberia”. The first of such letter was addressed to former President Charles G. Taylor in 2002. I appealed to him to veto the bill passed unanimously by the National Legislature following the recommendation by the Ministry of Education to change the school year from early March to early September. I also wrote similar letter to our Lawmakers, outlining the disadvantages of the early September opening schedule; thus asking them not to pass into law the change in the school year in the aftermath of the civil war. One of my reasons cited was that the “the early March first day of school in Liberia” is convenient and has enormous economic, cultural and social benefits, particularly after the civil war, far greater than the early September opening schedule.

Your Excellency, my admiration for the early March first day of school in Liberia is due to my experiencesduring my school days in Liberia. And I am appealing to you to go back to the old system for five main reasons:

Firstly, the vacation period coincides perfectly with the operations of businesses like Firestone, logging companies, mining and quarry, building and constructions industries, etc. at full capacities, affording those companies and individuals to hire students who earn money for school fees and gain experiences.

Secondly, some students take advantage of the dry season to help their parents with farming, who in turn use the proceeds from the produce to help their children with school fees and school materials.

Madam President, the absence of the children in the farming process due to change in the school calendar has created burden on parents who in the past have depended on their children for help. Given the difficulty and hard work required to make farm in Liberia, the average household needs helping hands it can get to success at farming.  Consequently, we see many students who drop out to help their parents with farming to support and feed their families. 

The third reason is that students can engage themselves in activities like contract farming or harvesting palm nuts to produce oil to buy school materials, an activity that is difficult to do in the rainy season. 

The Fourth reason is that our old system was an envy of our neighboring countries.  I realized the practical interests and experiences for the former school opening schedule  after serving  for eight years as Supervisor of Schools and then later as a training officer for the entire Liberia Refuge School System. This educational project was headed by then ADRA- UNCHR Frontline Education Project in Ivory Coast during the course of the civil war.

At first, we were allowed to operate our early March to December school system for about three years. After operating the school system for a while, the majority of the Ivorian citizens residing within the frontline zone where we operated our schools became envious of the opening schedule or the first day of an academic year for the refuge schools to that of their system. The main reason cited by the citizens was that “the first day of the Liberia refuge schools appropriately coincided with their harvest season of crops. As such, it was easier for ordinary citizens to sell their crop produces just before the opening season and enroll their children in school contrary to the system operated by their Government”. The confrontation faced compelled the education authorities in Ivory Coast to issue an ultimatum to close the refuge schools to adhere to the opening schedule of the host country. Similar decision was later taken by the school authorities in Guinea.

And lastly, a research conducted on the “worldwide first day of school” shows that school calendaris not uniform throughout the world. It is generally defined as “the first day when a school opens after the summer vacation. It varies in different areas around the world because of the differences in weather, climate, season, and culture, but the normal pattern is for school to begin in late August or early September in the northern hemisphere and in late January or early February in the Southern Hemisphere”. Countries in the Southern Hemisphere opening schools from early September contrary to the suggested normal pattern today are doing that because of their traditional ties to Europe or due to the historical influence of European colonization. For typical examples, the first day of an academic year in the following Southern Hemisphere countries start from the beginning of the year in accordance to the suggested normal pattern:



First Day of an Academic Year



Last Monday of February or the first Monday of March



First week of February



First Monday following if March 1 is a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday



Between the two first Mondays of March



First Monday following if March 1 is a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday





New Zealand

27 January and early February

For further detailed information on the global first day of an academic year, please see this website: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_day_of_school). Also for your perusal, a copy of my detailed analysis on the reasons for the first day of school in Liberia is attached.
Finally, Your Excellency, as it had been my major concern for our children over the years, I am appealing to you when considering re-opening schools after the Ebola crisis to revert to the first day of an academic year in early March. Like the previous letter, my reason is that the early March opening schedule would enable the parents and guardians of thousands of our children who are being orphaned by the deadly Ebola virus to take advantage of many self-sustainable activities available during the dry season in Liberia before the beginning of the academic year to cater to the children. 
I would be glad if I could be given the chance and invited to discuss the detail of the issue with you.
Kind regards.
Sincerely yours,

Sonkarley Tiatun Beaie
Consultant / Demography
Bureau of Statistics
P. O. Box 1070
74 High Street, Kingston
Georgetown, Guyana
Guyana, South America

Email: tbeaieson@gmail.com

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