The Reasons For Early School Calendar In LiberiA Part III
Scholastic Article on Educational Planning in Liberia
By Sonkarley Tiatun Beaie
• The containment of a year’s activities within itself;
• Similarity of school entry season;
• Religious backgrounds;
• Cultural backgrounds;
• The mode of economic production; and
• Self-sufficiency in food production.
5.1 The containment of a year’s activities within itself
For the purpose of containment of a year’s academic activities within the same given year, the school calendar was fixed, so that the activities and programmes for one year cannot drift or spill over to the succeeding year. The decision was believed to have reached in order to align the education fiscal year budget to the overall national fiscal year budget, which commences from the beginning of every year.
5.2 Similarity of school entry season
The summer time in the United States is somehow equated to the dry season in Liberia, the season where the American free slaves, who came had long cherished as a peak for their economic viability. Being people from relatively low income group in America at the time, this season afforded them the opportunities to work and prepare their children for school. Besides, the annual vacation period in the United States was summer, and adapting dry season as vacation in the new environment, would significantly yielded to similar purpose of vacation, when they were in the United States.
5.3 Religious backgrounds
The modern founders of the educational system in Liberia were Christian Missionaries, who aims and objectives were designed to train up the children in the way they should go, inspire them with the love of honorable fame and lofty philanthropy, and to form strong within them love and principle of humanity, virtue and religion . To achieve these aims, the early missionaries established tutorial classes in their homes, and later re-organized the system, which finally became the functional schools for Liberia. The foundation of the school flourished in all parts of Liberia, which later became the model of the Liberia school system. Therefore, until years after independence, the education of the Liberian children was heavily the responsibility of the Christian Missionaries. To promote their Christian doctrine and also enable the students to happily celebrate the holiday seasons with their parents, it is believed that they planned the major vacation period to coincide with Christmas and New Year, which are two important holidays for Christians.
5.4 Cultural backgrounds
The indigenous Liberians, prior to the arrival of the freed slaves, were functionally illiterate people and resided in satellite villages and towns. The proportion illiterate comprises the overwhelming number of the population even up to date, and large number still believe in the cultural practices of initiation of boys and girls in informal bush schools referred to as poro and sande.
The poro and sande are designed to instill the cultural practices and norms into boys and girls. The initiation is carried out mainly during the dry season and the new members are expected to remain in the society’s compound between two to three months or more depending on the nature of the traditional rituals. In order not to disrupt this traditional institution or maintain the system, so that they run somehow parallel with the formal school system, educational planners prepared a school calendar including the dry season into the annual vacation period, which marks the peak of the bush school activities.
Maintaining some of the traditional practices was among governing policies adapted by some former Liberian Presidents. For instance, in a speech delivered by President Stephen A. Benson, he said, “if we look at the aborigines of this land, and carefully study their organizations and method of government, we cannot avoid discovering incontrovertible proof of their possessing elements of a great nation” .
5.5 Mode of economic production
The peak of Liberia’s economic production is the dry season, where the weather conditions are quite favorable and allow people to move out without any requirement for weather protection. This season, gradually starts from late September to June of the following year, and marked by increased activities of planting and harvesting of crops. Besides, the wild forest trees including the oil palm, walnut, etc. are reaped and feasting, and the levels of rivers and creeks are reduced significantly, thereby boasting the opportunities for small scale fishing industry in the countryside.
Apart from cultivation of crops, in recent times, the concession companies, such like the logging, rubber, building and constructions, mining and quarry, private and public business firms, etc., operate on a full scale during the dry season; as such, any ambitious person is more likely to gain minimum income by taking the advantage of the dry season’s fruitions. The education planners, therefore, fixed the annual vacation to coincide with the maximum period of production, to easily enable parents to fine livelihood to meet the demands for school requirements before the resumption of each academic year.
5.6 Self-sufficiency in food production
The production of basic food commodities in Liberia is not mechanized, but mainly done by unpaid family workers, who generally practice bush-fallow system of agriculture. The success of this farming method depends, largely, on the weather conditions, and involves the participation of the entire household members including the children and the elderly.
The main school-going age group (5-24 years) is approximately 45 percent of the total population. This percentage excludes some grown-up children who are above this age range, but are found in large numbers within the school system. As such, having annual vacation during the peak of the farming season will definitely exclude the entire student population; hence, subsequently, affects the sustainability of self-sufficiency in food production.
In the past and even up to date, members of the Liberia National Legislature were given agricultural break during the beginning of the regular farming season, as well as the judiciary and the interior court system. All these were done to allow these stakeholders the opportunity to return home and farm, and also enable ordinary citizens to concentrate their full attention on farming, apparently to ensure self-sufficiency in food production.