• November 2, 2012
  • 251

Natalia Kimso- headmaster of the only trilingual educational centre in Lithuania

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

Soft and comfortable furniture, flowers in the corridors. Very clean, light walls. Silence, peace. Nothing here resembles an atmosphere of a school, where, traditionally, there is a buzz of children’s voices and rough and tumble. And it is a school, but a one that is different from traditional institutions— for the simple reason that it is adults who sit behind the school desks.

The official name of the institution is Vilnius Adult Education Centre. It has been so since 1993, when a night school for so-called working youth that was located in the building adopted a new name and also slightly different course and status.

For now it is the only centre for adults in Lithuania where they teach in three languages: Lithuanian, Russian and Polish. Students receive knowledge corresponding to the level of pre-primary school, primary school, high school and also have a possibility of improving their knowledge in additional ways. The distant learning is successfully realised there.

At the very entrance to the building one can see that the headmaster takes care of the institution— it is so clean, cosy and elegant. How could it be not so if a woman— Natalia Kimso— has been the headmaster since the creation of the institution?

In a moment we will learn that her working experience is longer than the life of the centre. She came here almost immediately after finishing the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute. Almost immediately, because as a student she got married and she had her first son— Jarek.

She met her husband, Stefan, during potato lifting. Despite the fact that they were studying at different universities— she in the Pedagogical Institute, he in the Institute for Construction Engineers— they were meeting during autumn potato lifting, traditional event during the Soviet era. They liked each other at once and — as Natalia says— they soon decided that they wanted to be together.

Since that meeting Natalia started to learn Polish intensively. Because, as it happened in her life, before she met Stefan, she had been speaking mainly Russian. Her mother was a Pole but her father was Russian and — as Natalia recollects— he was rather hostile towards mother and daughter using Polish. After some time her parents divorced.

Her first “handbook” of Polish language was, popular at those times, a magazine for children, “Winnie the Pooh” that was imported from Poland and Stefan brought it for their date.

Today, not only does Mrs Natalia know Polish perfectly. She also visited her motherland, she learned the culture and tradition, in which together with her husband (who, among other functions, is a long-term chairman of the Sports Club “Polonia”) they brought up their children— alumni of  Władysław Syrokomla High School in Vilnius, Jarosław and Daniel.

Let’s go back to the work experience of our protagonist. When Jarek was five months old, Natalia, as a young specialist, went to the Department of Education, where she as offered a job in the night school for working youth, which was located on Linkmenų street. She accepted the post gladly. After all, there was no choice. And despite the fact that she had some fears (as all beginners do) about how her relations with the students (who sometimes were at her age, sometimes they were older) will go, it all went surprisingly easy. She has had great relations with both, her students and colleagues, from the very beginning.

It became worse when the changes came. Then, Russian language, from being almost an official one during the Soviet era, not only lost popularity but it was also, for a time, perceived negatively. Therefore, it became useless. She decided: I have to retrain.

She began English studies which she successfully finished.

It is easy to write— she finished it. But there was a house, family, and children. Maybe these were hard times, but she has always had help and understanding from her husband and the whole family. And since she has inborn energy, enthusiasm and is hardworking— everything was going fine.

At the age of 29 she became the headmaster of the night school for adults, and when the institution adopted a new statue— she was given the power. Years were different— sometimes they had many students, sometimes less, but the fact that today there are 695 people learning in the centre speaks for itself.

There is so many ways in which the institution works! As I will learn in a moment, there are also groups for foreigners, who came to Lithuanian to work or live. Among these students there are Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese people and Indians who have a special, 25-hours long educational course for adults and after a year they can pass an exam for the first category of national language learning.

And Mrs Natalia managed to finish one more studies— MA studies at the University of Vytautas the Great in Kaunas in andragogy, which helps her a lot in her job. As the headmaster says, it is a very interesting field, as it deals with the processes of education, bringing up, self-learning and self-nurturing of adults. It answers the question what person an adult can be, what level of development and ability he or she can achieve, when he or she has optimal educational environment and the will to follow self-creation route.

About the school and work the headmaster can talk for hours and there really is something to talk about. Since 1997 the centre has participated in many projects: Phare, Socrates, experience exchanges. It has particularly tight connections with the Scandinavian countries, they closely cooperate with structural funds of the EU.

The students in the centre are really different in terms of age— starting with the youngest ones and going further until elderly people. There are seven pupils at the age of 16-17. The most numerous group has 176 people— these are the oldest ones, at the age of 40 and more. Because, as Mrs Natalia says, it is never too late for education and one cannot have enough of it.

The headmaster comes to her workplace early in the morning and very often leaves late at night. Administrative matters take much time and apart from that she also has a few hours of English every week.

Now, Natalia Kimso is also a member of the temporary group belonging to the Committee of Education in Seym. The task of the group, which gathers a few times in a week, is coming up with a new Law of Informal Upbringing for adults.

Her children are already adults— Jarek has a family, and three months ago their daughter, Emilka, was born. She is, for now, the only grandchild of the young and full of energy grandparents— Natalia and Stefan Kimso. They always have time for some relax. They both like travelling, but, as Mrs Natalia says, Stefan is really busy. Very often she goes with him for his business trips.

And since we are talking about relax— she does not even know what they like best. They are so willing to try everything! In her memory, she still has a vivid image of their vacation at the Mediterranean Sea from the past summer, as those moments, that sun, these impressions that they both had with her husband are unforgettable. They like active relax. This year they also were in Augustów. Every day they were taking bikes and exploring new places. Amazing feeling.

Once a week, as a rule, they go to swimming pool. Often there is also theatre and concerts. The headmaster has a dream to encourage hers husband to take dance classes. Stefan says, for now, that he is too busy, but my interlocutor believes that they will find a few hours every week to go and dance.

She also plans to start learning Spanish, which fascinates her. If we are mentioning languages, it is her habit that wherever she goes, she always takes an electronic dictionary with her and she spends the time of getting to that place on learning the language of the country to which they are going.

Passive sitting is not for her and her husband. Maybe in the house that they have near Vilnius. In summers, very often the whole family comes there to lie on a grass, swim in the swimming pool that they arrange and enjoy the view of roses sown by Mrs Natalia, which blossom until the first frost.

Source:  http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/11/02/natalia-kimso-dyrektor-jedynego-na-litwie-centrum-trojjezycznego/

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

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