- February 11, 2013
„Alma Mater” conference – fight for Polish education
In the House of the Polish Culture in Vilnius on the 9th January there was a conference of the Association of Polish School Teachers “Alma Mater”, during which reports were presented and election took place. 236 delegates, representing 92 Polish schools in Lithuania, have arrived. Józef Kwiatkowski was re-elected chairman; currently he is an MP in the Lithuanian Seym and he has been the chairman of the Association for many years. Krystyna Dzierżyńska was elected vice–chairman. Additionally, 20 people were chosen to be the members of the board committee.
The conference began with singing “Rota” and praying for delegates and the conference. The prayer was led by the friar Jerzy Latawiec from the Dominican Order.
Józef Kwiatkowski spoke as the first one and he presented a lecture about the latest four years of the Association’s activity. In his speech, he made a detailed and very precise analysis of events, contests, Olympic contests and other happenings, organised by the Association.
He talked about how the Association activates the community of teachers and pupils, how it takes care of the material foundations for Polish schools, about cooperation with parents and their support in fighting for their rights to have their children educated in their mother tongue. Using figures, the chairman presented the improvement in quality of teaching and the number of Polish high school graduates who are admitted to universities.
In 1995, 41.5 % of high school graduates were going to universities. In 2000 it was 50% and in 2006 – 65%. In the years 2007 – 2012, 73% to 79% of high school alumni were admitted to universities in Lithuania and abroad. Without taking into consideration the fact that the Polish language exam is not a compulsory one, 99% of graduates take this exam.
The chairman also talked about the great importance of financial cooperation and aid given to Polish schools by the Polish Senate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Consular Department of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius, numerous departments of the Polish Community, the “Semper Polonia” foundation, the Aid For Poles in the East and other institutions. He was glad that Polish schools in Lithuania are competitive. The teachers working there are well educated ones; the majority have the qualifications of senior teachers and educationalists. He thanked the teachers for the great amount of their work and sacrifice.
Józef Kwiatkowski did not omit the flash points. He encouraged the parents, teachers and pupils to have constructive discussions held directly at schools, not in the Internet. He advised the graduating pupils not to give up their final Lithuanian language exam.
Waldemar Tomaszewski, the chairman of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, speaking to the delegates described the current situation as a fight for the Polish education system in Lithuania.
–We have to stay together and, with full determination, fight for what we have always had. We have a clear stance in the issue of education and there is no place for compromise here. It was not for the offices that we entered the ruling coalition, but it was to realise our political programme – said Waldemar Tomaszewski.
The chairman of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania ensured the people present at the conference that representatives of the Polish party in the Lithuanian government have all the required documents ready, and in the next few days they can solve the most important issues, related to the case of Polish education in Lithuania. The party’s chairman also thanked the teachers for their effort, involvement and sacrifice. He thanked for help and support for the party during the recent parliamentary election. He also mentioned those teachers who rebuilt Polish education system after the war.
Iwona Frączak, the manager of the Consular Department in the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Lithuania called the foundation of the “Alma Mater” organisation – which is one of the most numerous Polish organisations in Lithuania – in 1990 an event of great importance. She expressed her admiration for the long activity of the Association and for its leadership. She also thanked all teachers for their everyday work and sacrifice, and for social activity. Iwona Frączak read out the decree of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, about honouring Krystyna Dzierzyńska, the vice–chairman of the Association of Polish School Teachers in Lithuania “Alma Mater” with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
Delegates also listened to the reading of the Revisionary Commission about the latest four years of activity. The chairmen of the Šalčininkai region, the Vilnius region, the Trakai region and the city of Vilnius had their speeches about the precise directions of activity of the particular circles of “Alma Mater”. Kazimierz Karpicz’s speech was warmly welcomed. He is the headmaster of the M. Baliński’s school in Jašiūnai and he shared his reflections about a modern Polish school in Lithuania with the delegates.
The Speaker of the Lithuanian Seym, Jarosław Narkiewicz, presented delegates a planned, precise action of representatives of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania in the government, related to the national Lithuanian language exam for high school graduates. He also proposed introducing to the resolution of the conference a point, which would express the concern caused by the situation that appeared in the Trakai region.
After the political revolution of the 31st January in the local government of the Trakai region, representatives of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania were removed from the ruling coalition in that region. The new government promises optimisation of the school network in the region. Unofficially, it is said that there are plans to join the Polish and the Lithuanian high schools in Paluknys, the Russian and the Polish high schools in Lentvaris and joining the Primary School in Senieji Trakai with the High School in Trakai, which will be changed into a primary school.
Renata Cytacka also spoke in front of delegates. She is the current under – secretary of energy and during the conference she was a representative of the Šalčininkai department of the Parents’ Forum. She touched a few very important topics related to the quality of the Polish education. She spoke about the problems connected with teaching classes simultaneously in Polish and Lithuanian, in equal amount of time in the first grade, and those related to the Lithuanian language national high school final exam. Additionally, she talked about the need of regular meetings of parents, teachers and politicians.
The topic of a certain lack of information and the need of common meetings of politicians, parents and teachers, during which matters related to the education would be discussed, was also mentioned by Jan Mincewicz, the deputy mayor of the Vilnius Region in his speech.
–There is a need for such conferences, occasional and annual meetings, but what we need huujneven more are working meetings which would help us to sort out the present situation and decide about a common stance – said Jan Mincewicz, commenting on the information about standardization of the Lithuanian language examination, which has recently appeared in the media.
Delegates present during the conference adopted a resolution in which they speak against limitations of the children’s right to be educated in their mother tongue, claiming that the new Law on Education from the 17th March 2011 narrows and limits the pupils’ cognitive possibilities by introducing the Lithuanian language as the language of teaching a part of the classes at a level, when the students have not mastered the Lithuanian language. The resolution stands against the standardization and unification of the high school final exams in Lithuanian as national language and Lithuanian as mother tongue, claiming that it is impossible to compare the equal linguistic abilities of someone, for whom Lithuanian is the native language and someone who have learnt it. It emphasizes the need for reintroducing the obligatory Polish language examination at the level of primary schools and high school final exams, and taking into consideration a grade from a Polish language class during an admission process at universities. Delegates also spoke in favour of teaching the Polish history through the introduction of such a course to schools, for 9th and 10th grades.
Delegates prepared an appeal to teachers in Polish schools and kindergartens, emphasizing the importance and meaning of excellent knowledge about the mother tongue. The appeal, among other topics, says that the teacher of each course is responsible for teaching the Polish language, and it is important that the Polish language in schools should be correct. The mission of a teacher in this context is a great one.
There was a separate resolution prepared about the standardization of the Lithuanian language high school final exam. This document will be sent to the highest state offices of Lithuania.
The conference directed its appeal to parents. It encourages them to choose a Polish school for a child from a Polish family.
On the ceremonial opening of the conference there appeared many important guests: Waldemar Tomaszewski, an EMP, Jarosław Narkiewicz, an MP and the vice – Speaker of the Lituanian Seym, the chairman of the Trakai department of The Union of Poles in Lithuania, Edyta Tamošiūnaitė, the undersecretary of schooling and education of Lithuania, Edward Trusewicz, under – secretary of culture in Lithuania Iwona Frączak, the manager of the Consular Department in the Polish Embassy and an MP in the Lithuanian Seym, Wanda Krawczonok, an MP in the Lithuanian Seym, Rita Tamašunienė, Jan Mincewicz, the deputy mayor of the Vilnius Region, Apolonia Skakowska, the chairman of the Stanisław Moniuszko’s Polish Culture Centre in Lithuania, Zdzisław Palewicz, the mayor of the Šalčininkai region, Maria Rekść, the mayor of the Vilnius Region, Lilija Andruszkiewicz, the manager of the department of education in the Vilnius Region, Danuta Narbut, vice – manager of the Administration of the Local government of the city of Vilnius, headmasters of Polish schools, chairmen of the “Alma Mater” circles.
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.