The Senate Committee on Education and Public Administration has forwarded several recommendations to the Senate plenary as options to harmonize viewpoints on solutions for the education system and the resumption of the academic calendar in the country.
The Committee chaired by ranking Bong County Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, recommended that in order to fulfill the previously scheduled nine-month academic calendar, the Ministry of Education should adjust the 2014/2015 academic year to September 30, 2015, instead of its proposed July 31, 2015 deadline.
The recommendations also state that the 12th and 9th graders be required to attend Saturday classes during the extended period to September 15, in order to properly prepare and sit the exams which could be scheduled for the end of September 2015.
“The rationale for their recommendation is that if 9th and 12th graders remain in school until 2016 as is being proposed, the education overflow for 10th and 12th graders will be trebled. This increase would pose a national problem of overcrowding in both grades and result in another crisis in terms of low education impact and limited space.”
With respect to the next academic year, the Senate Committee is recommending that the 2015/2016 school calendar run from October 2015 to June 2016 with scheduled Saturday classes to make up the loss in school time. “This allows the Liberian school calendar to line up with the international academic calendar by the end of this calendar period,” said the Committee.
The Senate Committee which is co-chaired by former University of Liberia Geology Professor Albert T. Chie is also recommending to plenary that the proposal by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for a consultation with the leadership of the House of Representatives include the leadership of the Senate and the members of the Education Committees of both Houses. The Committee further proposed that “there be a roundtable meeting of all stakeholders to finalize an educational program and to seek and obtain adequate funding for all activities which will move the school system from mess to best.”
“These are indeed extraordinary times which require extraordinary efforts and sacrifices by all. It is the responsibility of the Liberian Senate as the House of elders to keep the spirit and intent of the coordination and interaction among the three branches of the government in harmony at an even level,” the Committee advised.
Though a majority of the Senators welcomed the report of the Committee and its recommendations, some of them called for urgent consultations to avert crisis within the education sector.
Margibi County Senator Jim Tornolah described it as a saga looming over the education sector, saying it was worrisome and calls for serious attention.
Senator Dallas A.V. Gueh, a member of the committee and himself a former classroom teacher, said the committee’s work was in the spirit of coordination and its recommendations are to help avert what he described as a looming crisis. “We have one government and we are all stakeholders. If anything affects one branch it affects the entire government.”
The Rivercess County lawmaker said that every problem in the country is owed to ignorance, and recommended that education be declared a national security emergency.
“We need to commission research in the various universities so as to look at the problem from the root cause and to find the medical solution.”
For his part, Maryland County Senator J. Bleh-bo Brown warned that the new recommended dates in the Committee’s report will further exacerbate the problem and will only increase the confusion already existing among the citizens. He suggested that the Senate leave dates for closing and reopening of schools to the appropriate education authorities.
The Committee comprises of Senators Jewel Howard-Taylor, chair; Albert T. Chie, co-chair; Dallas A.V.Gueh, J. Milton Teahjay, and Oscar Cooper as members.
Meanwhile, dozens of non-violent chanting students from the 9th and 12th grade classes of various schools within Monrovia yesterday briefly converged on the premises of the Capitol Building with placards calling on lawmakers not to allow the postponement of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examines as announced by the Ministry of Education. They later dispersed peacefully as lawmakers carried on normal legislative work.