• October 15, 2011
  • 231

Once together, side by side. Now still together, but on different sides

A mandatory matura exam of Polish? Quite possible, why not! Parents’ representatives in the education committee? But of course, absolutely. As many as five on each side. Fewer students in the individual classes? Acceptable. The evaluation of the education committee’s work? The best possible… All of this comes from the lips of the members of the Lithuanian team in the intergovernmental commission education, mainly from the lips the President of the Lithuanian team, Vaidas Bacysa … … If it is so good, then why is it so bad? Why was a handful of journalists asked to wait for the final version of the message till ten in the evening, and still got it after midnight. Again the text was chiselled. With a small break for dinner.

Too well known Lithuanian tactics. Hard stubbornness, minimal, tiny concessions, and at the same time a huge surprise, solemn assurances of eternal love, good, benevolent intentions and an exceptional care towards “our Poles.”

Dear Lord, save me from friends, and I’ll cope with the enemies myself – I’m laughing quietly to myself, because nothing else remains.

But at last I know why one of the flagship Lithuanian drinks is called “Suktinis”, and why, because undoubtedly also because of the name, it is so much liked by Poles…

Well and so they spin, and spin.. Embraced.

Few things in the Polish-Lithuanian discussion can surprise me anymore. And yet I was surprised. It was the information that behind the door, in the session hall of the venerable commission, minister Bacys promotes the idea of a “bad interpretation by the Polish side of the point 30 of the Act, particularly the section of the so-called compulsory bilingual teaching of some subjects (history, geography and social studies) in the part concerning Lithuania. According to Minister Bacys the Act provides only … a proposition to introduce bilingual content in classes. For example – and here I quote the minister Bacys – “if the subject of a lesson is the “Trotsky Castle “, the bill presumes that a teacher will give students the Lithuanian name:” Traku Pilis “. The Minister probably thinks that the teachers teach on the moon and he still pretends not to know that all Polish students starting from the first grade use Lithuanian exercise books, atlases and only the textbooks are still in Polish. Some textbooks, because there fewer of fewer of these as well, because the ministry is also not keen to provide the money for issuing them. But maybe the minister does not know that very often these children since birth know the Pilis Giedimino name, but they sometimes have trouble with naming the Tower of Gediminas in Polish.

So I wonder what has been the purpose of the ministerial committee’s visits to the Polish School in the Vilnius region, which for a couple of weeks now has been very carefully checking whether the statutory provision for the conduct of some of the lessons in Lithuanian is indeed implemented. And even more interesting is the phone call of one of the Lithuanian journalists (by the way, the correspondent of a large and influential international news agency), who was proving to me with verve that the lack of teaching in Lithuanian is a failure to obey the act, a gross violation and is subject to legal punishment(!). And hence the curiosity as to why the minister Bacys would not disclose his idea to the Lithuanian media, the officials, and whether that same minister tomorrow or the day after tomorrow doesn’t change his view and accepts any other interpretation of the bill as much more interesting. Today there is a liberal minister, tomorrow will have a conservative one, and the interpretations of the bill will change accordingly.

So maybe there is something wrong with the bill itself if it causes so much confusion? No! The bill is good and stay away from it! For now, the laconic record from the committee’s meeting must be sufficient : “At the next meeting the Lithuanian side will present implementing legislation to the art. 3, paragraph 2.2. of the Republic of Lithuania Law on education “.

Now the committee will debate on it in a wider circle. Together with parents. This condition has finally been accepted by the Lithuanian side. First asked by boththe Polish side and by the Polish Schools Parent Forum in Lithuania, it would stubbornly refuse, only to suddenly say – all right, but  only five individuals on each side. And it all becomes clear after talking to the same minister Bacys, who rebukes that there are different parenting environments and the opinions of all of them should be asked. Bacys Minister did not fail to boast that for the meeting with him in the Syrkomla Secondary School in Vilnius there came three parent, who had a different opinion from the others. Those parents allegedly thanked the Ministry and decided that the bill was great, and all current proposals are perfect for Polish schools. Let’s clarify, how many parents? Three. Well, for the school, which teaches more than 900 students, it’s a really representative percentage. Even more so for sixty thousand. Truly exceptional. I bet they will be the ones to join the committee..

Probably hundreds of thousands of consistent feedback and a million signatures would not be enough to persuade the Lithuanian party to abandon the uniform exam. The consensus is far from being reached. Hence this record in the message: “No common position has been agreed upon in the following issues: the formulation of different matura subjects for students of Polish and Lithuanian language teaching, the volume of essays, identifying source texts on which to rely on in essays.”
It has been agreed that henceforth the Lithuanian language exam will be the same in form – all students in all schools write the essay. But there is no consensus that the essay topics should be different, that for schools of national minorities there was a lower number of words required in the text (lower by 1 / 3) and a narrower range of knowledge of the mandatory literature in the Lithuanian language (e.g. not 24 Lithuanian literary works of 12 authors, as in the present programme descripiton, but e.g. 18 literary works by 8 Authors with a greater possibilities of relying on texts by Polish authors or general literature). The Lithuanian party agrees to concessions in the application of different evaluation criteria for minority students, for example, with a greater number of acceptable language, stylistic and grammatical errors in the essay. However, only during the transitional period, for example in the next seven years with and annual narrowing of the concessions to eventually completely standardize the criteria for evaluation after the last year of transition. So we still have two mother tongues. On the exam – one. Lithuanian.

And yet the Lithuanian delegation in the educational committee it is worthy of admiration. For their consistency, conviction, compact formation. Pretty impressive. As if they held their hands and they walked arm in arm. The great oaks, three Lithuanian “ąžuolasy”, surrounded by  the faithful are dwarfs have a clear target and no doubts whatsoever.

You cannot call Minister Sielatycki an angel, and even his stubbornness is Lithuanian in a way. He also doesn’t lack consistency. But something is still missing in the Polish delegation. Although they are not the ones to be reproached. After all, it is not their field they’re playing at, and even if they are, the field is full of mines and the team is not fully theirs. The reproach is for ourselves, the Lithuanian Poles. One can feel that we are lacking a clear objective, a fully defined strategy, a well thought plan. One can feel cracks. I know what I’m going to hear. Try to be wise in this situation. When there is an earthquake, you do not know where it breaks and when it falls. Yes, it’s true. But from now on it will always be a seismic area. Actually, it always has been. And in the future the eruptions, even large, are inevitable. So let’s assess, whether the foundations are intact, let’s design a plan to build and strengthen the walls, let’s finally project the new facade of the house. Everyone is going to tell me, but we had (have?) a nice design of this house. Yes, but half of the house has fallen, holes have appeared, and the project is after all from the past century. Well, you cannot live in a broken home. You have to rebuild it. And even a repair crew arrived. Surprisingly tight and ready. (For how long?). Let’s prepare a new, comprehensive home design titled “Polish Education in Lithuania”. What we must leave let’s leave, what we must rebuild, let’s rebuild from scratch. But let’s start doing it. Consistently, deliberately, by a deliberate plan. It’s worth it, since the building
Because I think the whole?

One more post scriptum addition. The Educational Commission debated on 14 October. A meaningful date, the anniversary of the establishment of the National Education Commission – the first ministry of public Education in Poland. Not only in Poland. Also in Lithuania. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Oh, where are the good old days of glory. The participation of the intellectual elite of Lithuania in the establishment of the National Education Commission is huge and very meaningful.
And a curiosity. To this day the headquarters of the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science are the first, former headquarters of the National Education Commission. Of this fact did not fail to remind Vaidas Bacys, who the day before dropped by into the gymnasium of Adam Mickiewicz in Vilnius, to welcome the Polish Deputy Minister of Education and in a way “to participate” in the Polish celebrations. He quickly shook hands with his colleague the Minister, showed off his knowledge of the Polish-Lithuanian part of history, and before you knew it he was gone.

Of course, hearing out complaints and grievances of the gathered Poles concerning the current situation of Polish education fell on minister Sielatycki. He collected the Poles’ grievances, tried to understand, explain, relate to, not to budge or “sway.” He got punished for his own faults and the others’. Definitely more for others. Maybe because of that, maybe out of determination and conviction, maybe out of tiredness, maybe for the sake of peace, in a statement with which Sielatycki addressed the Polish journalists, after the meeting of the committee, one could hear quite a loud conclusion. “If the commission of these two nations is not successful, we will turn to the commission of 27 nations.”

Silence falling, late night, absolute emptiness after a recent meeting, and our eyes  opening widely with astonishment..


Tłumaczenie Anna Kołosowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Translated by Anna Kołosowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu

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