- March 29, 2012
Lapinskas: Let’s return to open discussions.
PL DELFI in the introductory speech, presenting itself to Lithuania and the world, announced ‘Our pages are open for everyone. The only criterion that we take is the relevance and our readers’ interests… It’s not a secret that we are open to broad cooperation with our readers, who are not only objective judges for us (our future depend vastly on your activities) but also they contribute to the creation of the portal.’
I understood this as an invitation directed at Lithuanians as well for representation of their views. This time I’ll refer to Aleksander Radczenko’s publication ‘How to change the education act?’ It doesn’t say, of course, just about the mechanism of changing the act, but about the reasons for which this act should be changed. The general situation of Poles in Lithuania is analyzed there. The things in the article are, in my opinion, a good topic for the discussion.
At the beginning of the article, probably its main idea is presented ‘first we should change the position of Lithuanian public opinion towards Polish demands.’ On the basis of the text we can draw a conclusion that Polish demands are right and indisputable and the only problem is Lithuanians’ stubbornness because they don’t consider Polish demands right and indisputable. Apart from these strong accents, there is a trace of apology, as the rally took place on the 17th of March ‘A real “no” against Lithuania’ and it was just a proposition of ‘ beginning of the dialogue.’ I accept even this invitation. In the dialogue it’s vital to listen to the second party and that’s why I’ll try to present my deliberations on this topic. I mean constantly repeated by Poles in Lithuania education demands from the Lithuanian government, which were heard in whole Europe and in the world.
What kind of demands? The newest form was announced on the rally 17th of March. Here you can see the demands: a. dismissal of the Education Act resolutions concerning the minorities education; b. resignation from the uniform matura exam from Lithuanian; c. the acknowledgement of the exams from Polish, Russian and Belarusian as compulsory subjects; d. the resignation from the discriminating rule forcing to maintain the schools with a national language at the cost of the minorities schools; e. the pupil basket increase to 50% in the schools of minorities.
Despite the fact that Mr Radczenko doesn’t want to talk about them (he probably considers himself a stable political platform), I will, relying on the dialogue and the proposal of promoting ‘various opinions,’ explore their legitimacy. The first demand is not fortunate, at least when it comes to the formal logic. After cancelling ‘the regulations of the Education Act concerning the minorities education’ and cancelling all clues concerning the minorities education; the education would be completely cancelled. Do Poles in Lithuania want this?
The demand of cancelling the uniform matura exam (for some reason Belarusians, Jews and even some Russian schools don’t have such demands, don’t call for help) is most often justified like this: Polish students don’t need reinforced teaching of Lithuanian as they have enough of ‘that Lithuanian language.’ Unfortunately it’s not enough as even in Lithuanian version of the rally resolution from the 17th of March is many grammatical mistakes despite the fact that it was written by the Polish activists, which have higher education.
What and to what extent is taught in any school is determined by the Ministry of Education of this country. Mr Aleksander Radczenko should also agree with this. Why Lithuania should be an exception? Why things like what and how much should be taught in our country should be established by some strike committee, let’s face it- the students that don’t want to study?
In the resolution he demands adding the national language exam (Polish, Russian, Belarusian) to the list of the compulsory matura exams. Many times was it explained that this demand is just a political propaganda because at the first glance it would look as if such exam doesn’t exist. According to the schedule imposed on all public schools, the students take just one compulsory exam from Lithuanian and the rest of the subjects is up to them. They can choose Belarusian, Polish, Russian or German.
The introduction of two compulsory exams from language in the minority schools would discriminate the students as they would have to pass more exams than the students in Lithuanian schools and if they got worse grade the scandal would appear concerning discrimination and the quality of education.
In the resolution he demands the cancellation of the discriminating statement ordering maintaining the schools with the national language at the cost of the national minorities schools. The most probably it concerns the part 8 art. 40 of The Education Act according to which in the cities in which the minorities live ‘the program of the higher education in at least one school (at least one class) should be provided in the national language.’ Here Poles — Lithuanian parliament members saw discrimination and proposed amendment ‘…in the minority language.’ But they forgot that the elementary condition is the parents’ will concerning the language in which their children should be taught. The part 7 of 28 article of the Act says: ‘In the cities with traditionally big number of the minority people, on the community demand, the local government should provide teaching in the minority language and teaching the language of the minority.’ So there is no evidence of discrimination here. That’s why this point of the resolution is unclear.
And it’s not known on which statistics they demand ‘increase of pupils’ basket to 50% in the minority schools.’ At the beginning we should notice that the worth of the basket depends on the country financial abilities and that is why alongside with the increase of the minority schools financing, it would be necessary to reduce financing of the Lithuanian schools. As we can see the optimal balance was found. Financing the minority schools currently amounts to 121% in comparison with the Lithuanian schools. But the village minority schools are financed even in 225%. One more indicator favorable towards Poles: the average number of pupils in the minority schools is 161 in comparison with Lithuanians 334. So looking from the general perspective, the situation of Polish education is twice as good as Lithuanian.
Perhaps, the demands of higher pupils’ basket origin from the fact that in Poland the level of Lithuanians education is 150%. But from the data from the Polish Embassy indicate that financing on the level of 150% receive the small village minority schools (in Lithuania it’s 225%) and these bigger ones on the level of 120%. The situation is even worse as not all the subsidies get to the Lithuanian schools. The Lithuanian schools in Poland, especially the secondary school ‘Žiburys’ in Sejny, lack over one thirds of the sum. The Lithuanian government has to cover that difference. So, in fact Poland finances the Lithuanian schools only in 60%. Would the Poles in Lithuania be more happy if the Polish model of financing was applied?
And now a few more remarks after reading Aleksander Radczenko’s article, after all, based on his rule ‘be poor but fair.’ According to Radczenko the Education Act includes neither the schools for the minorities nor the temporary period nor exceptions nor the time for learning history and geography in Lithuanian by the teachers. It’s not true, and all these things are in the sub-acts, the intention of legalizing all in the Act (it’s not in Polish Education Act either). Finally, Poles, relying on the rally resolution, don’t talk about a temporary period in connection with the unified exam and demand cancelling of such an exam.
We should perceive as positive Radczenko’s statement that the problems of teaching Poles should be resolved in Lithuania without screaming for help in Poland. He even changes into Russian: ‘forget that ‘заграница нам поможет,’doesn’t help.’ It gives hope that there will be direct dialogue in Lithuania without asking foreign mediators for help. These mediators don’t want to go away, as we know from the example of the North Ossetia.
The author criticizes ‘his activists,’ which compare themselves to the American Movement Against Racial Segregation and for the rights of the coloured minorities.’ He explains that the movement won as it was supported by ‘millions of white people and politicians, the Hollywood stars, the media and being a racist was not “cool” anymore.’ Does he mean ‘white’ Lithuanians and ‘coloured’ Poles? Isn’t that too blunt?
‘If we want to change the Education Act we shouldn’t protest but we should discuss things,’ Radczenko explains. I agree and at the same time I remind this young man that such attempts already happened in 1992 and were stopped unfortunately. In that times on the pages of ‘Vilnius Courier’ (19 June 1992) I wrote quite harsh article ‘distorted spirit of Helsinki’ later the then editor of the journal Zbigniew Balcewicz in his article ‘How to cure from nationalisms’ referred to this article kindly and politely. After that we exchanged a few more ideas. That’s why I’m waiting for Aleksander Radczenko’s reply for this. Let’s revive such discussions.
The basis for them could be, for instance, such thoughts included in the mentioned Zbigniew Balcewicz’s article: ‘It’s the best time so that the people who quarreled and set variance between the two nations stopped talking Polish-Lithuanian relationships on our behalf . Let the real intelligence and other people without nationalistic complexes meet with each other and discuss things. Also in front of the TV cameras. Good relationships are possible only if we eliminate the feeling of mutual threat and harm and if we restore the confidence in the foreign nationality co-citizens of our common homeland – Lithuania. These words were said 20 years ago and are still up to date.
Tłumaczenie Adam Gałązka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Adam Gałązka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.