At the beginning of December, a celebration took place at Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium in Dieveniškės. In the Šalčininkai region, all secondary schools have received their accreditation and have acquired the status of gymnasium. In the Šalčininkai region there are 13 local-government-controlled gymnasiums. Eight schools teach in Polish.
During the celebration, the headmistress of the school, Danuta Anichowska, said that it was an important event for the local community. “The school has been educating children for over 80 years and is a cultural hub of the town. Thanks to the work of the local government and the resolution of the Region Council and the work of the teachers, pupils and parents, our biggest dream has come true and Adam Mickiewicz Secondary School is now known as a gymnasium. It is a great success, but also a great challenge which, I hope, we are able to face.” – she added.
A school with 80 years of history
Schooling in Dieveniškės began in the 19th century. During the times of Imperial Russia, a two-year school with instruction in the Russian language was open in 1866. During the years 1926-1928 a new seven-year school was built and Adam Mickiewicz was chosen as its patron. The headmaster of the school was Włodzimierz Soroko. Up until 1939 the teaching was conducted in Polish. After the war, Russian and Lithuanian became the languages of instruction and in 1952 the first Polish class was created.
Since 2000, the teaching has been conducted exclusively in Polish and seven years ago the establishment welcomed back Mickiewicz as its patron. The school educates children from Dieveniškės and 28 neighbouring villages.
During the celebration, the mayor of the Šalčininkai region, Zdzisław Palewicz, highlighted that hard work had been necessary to acquire the status of a gymnasium. –“A common cause and the authenticity of our goals have led us to that fantastic result, and I congratulate you for that result. I wish the staff and the pupils of the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium in Dieveniškės all the best and I hope we will witness more successes of the school.” – he said.
Special needs school with the Polish language of instruction
The Polish Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium is one of the last schools in the region to receive its accreditation and change its status to a gymnasium. Some of the other schools were also the Polish Ludwik Narbutt Gymnasium in Kalesninkai and the Polish-Russian Eliza Orzeszkowa Gymnasium in Baltoji Vokė.
Currently, there are no secondary schools in the region, only gymnasiums following the secondary school curriculum.
The local government of the region is currently in charge of 33 educational establishments: 13 gymnasiums, 6 primary schools, 1 special needs school, 2 multi-functional centres, 1 universal centre and 10 kindergartens.
Appropriate conditions for learning in the mother tongue have also been provided for the special needs children following individual curriculums. The Special Needs School in Šalčininkai is the only establishment of such a kind in Lithuania teaching in Polish. It welcomes children from the Šalčininkai and Vilnius regions. In the Šalčininkai region, the overall number of children with development difficulties is over 70 and they are primarily taken care of by the Day Care Centre for the People with Development Difficulties “Promyczek nadziei” in Šalčininkai.
Education is a priority
Education is a priority for the local government. According to the official information, over 50% of budget funds is spent on education. This year, 12.3 million Euros have been spent, i.e. 51.3% of the budget. The most important aims of the local government are equal opportunities, good quality of education both in the official language and the languages of minorities, and maintaining the national identity in the schools of national minorities.
The establishments are constantly renovated and equipped with modern teaching aides. Every school has a modern IT classroom. Most of them also have school gyms and canteens or club rooms. Thanks to the involvement of school communities in various projects, several sports fields were built.
According to the regional authorities, many educational establishments were renovated within the last five years and the total cost of all renovation works is almost 6 million Euros.
Help from compatriots from Poland
The educational establishments in the region have been supported by the “Polish Community” Association for almost 20 years. The school communities are grateful for the help they have received. Thanks to the financial help of the Association in 2014, it was possible to insulate the facades of the dormitory of the Jan Śniadecki Gymnasium in Šalčininkai and of the P.K. Brzostowski Gymnasium in Turgeliai. In 2013, the school gyms of the Brzostowski Gymnasium and of the Narbutt Gymnasium were renovated. In the years 2010-2011, the Association also helped the primary school in Pabarė, the Anna Krepsztul Gymnasium and the kindergarten in Butrimonys and many other schools.
The “Polish Community” also allows the teachers to improve their qualifications and, with the help of Polish partner organizations, ensures that children have the opportunity to spend holidays in Poland. Over 500 children from the region spent their free time in Poland.
Michał Baliński Gymnasium among the best
The Polish schools from the region have been ranked as the best in the “Best school, best teacher” competition organized by the Association of Polish teachers in Lithuania “Macierz Szkolna” for years. The Michał Baliński Gymnasium in Jašiūnai has been ranked as one of the best four schools in the region for the second year in a row.
In this year’s competition, in the category of regional schools, a distinction-graded diploma went to the Jan Śniadecki Gymnasium in Šalčininkai. The school was also praised for the participation of its pupils in competitions and contests organized by the Polish Educational Society and for placing 1st-3rd place in various competitions in Lithuania and abroad. In the category of district schools, awards went to the Anna Krepsztul in Butrimonys and to Eliza Orzeszkowa Gymnasium in Baltoji Vokė.
“The “Macierz Szkolna” has been striving to inspire pupil and teacher communities in various fields for years. The “Best school, best teacher” competition plays a special role in their activity and is a motivation and a sign of gratefulness for the work of Polish schools and their teachers. As a representative of the Šalčininkai branch of the organization and as a councillor of the region, I am very pleased to see the region as one of the best” – said Jadwiga Sinkiewicz, the Director of the Šalčininkai branch of the “Macierz Szkolna”. It is also worth mentioning that in the category of primary schools one of the praised schools was the Primary School in Šalčininkėliai. Among 77 highly-commended teachers, 17 of them came from the Šalčininkai region.
In the list of the best
The Polish gymnasiums of the region were also praised in the latest list ranking the best gymnasiums, published by the Lithuanian newspaper “Reitingai” on 8 December. Two Polish schools were included in the list: the Baliński Gymnasium in Jašiūnai and the Gymnasium in Eišiškės. The basis of the ranking was the analysis of the results of the state Matura exams taken by school-leavers this year. Both schools were ranked as the best in the category of preparation for the Chemistry exam.
The list shows that the Gymnasium in Jašiūnai (1st place in the given category) and the Gymnasium in Eišiškės (4th and 5th place) prepared the best for the Chemistry exam.
The high quality of teaching and the improvement of equipment in schools, renovations and the possibility to go to Poland for holidays and to study, developing cooperation of partner schools, the chance to go to university in Poland – all of these factors contribute to the increase in the number of pupils in the Polish schools of the region and make them more prestigious and attractive.
Tłumaczenie by Natalia Skowronek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Natalia Skowronek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.