- February 27, 2013
Closing the schools: is there a difference between Puńsk and other Vilnius region?
The town council of Punśk decided to close three Lithuanian schools: in Widugierach (lit. Vidugiriai), Przystawańcach (lit. Pristavonys) and Nowinnikach (lit. Navynikai). In these schools there are 45 pupils – respectively 11, 9 and 26 pupils. The decision was made by the majority votes. Although the majority of people here are Lithuanian, the central government in Warsaw was accused of closing these schools. It was pointed out that the Lithuanian government pay for the Polish schools in Lithuania. The signatory of the Act of Independence from March 11 Romualdas Ozolas claimed that if these three Lithuanian schools in Poland are closed, then the Lithuanian government should close the same amount of Polish schools in Lithuania.
-I think that the government has enough strength and money to play in the same way, to play like Poles. If we have some honour, then we have to do it. If these Lithuanian schools are going to be closed today, we have to stop giving money to the Polish schools in Lithuania in which there are the same number of pupils, according to the rule: “if they play in such a way, we would play in the same way” – said Romuladas Ozolas on the press conference on March 27. He proposed also to take away from the Polish schools in Lithuania some sum of money that is needed to finance Lithuanian schools in Lithuania.
However, as we („Kurier”) got to know today – that is 28 February – Vilnius district local government councilors also have to make decision to close their schools. As the superintendent of the education department of local government district of Vilnius Sofia Ryżowa said to us, there will be the reorganisation of some schools. It would include both branches of the Lithuanian language teaching as well as of the Polish language teaching. Nevertheless, she noticed that in the Lithuanian facilities (which, moreover, are the subsidiaries of other schools) in this year there is lack of students.
-There is no need to maintain an empty school – said the superintendent. She emphasized that before closing a branch to which the children are still going, there was conducted a meeting with parents, teachers and students.
-Nobody protested. What is more, some parents asked us to let their children go to the bigger schools, where conditions are better – informed Sofia Ryżowa. As she said, the children from closing branches will be transported to the nearby larger schools. The reorganization will include the branches in Wielucianach, Suderwie, Duksztach, Bujwidzach, Ojranach, Rukojniach, Skajsterach and in Płacieniszkach where the primary school is going to be closed. Today there are only 12 childern. In all, the reorganization will affect about 60 students.
According to Ryżowa’s opinion, because of the reorganization the teachers will not lose their position. They would have an opportunity to work in other, larger schools. What is more, some teachers will retire. In Lithuania there are 48 Polish schools and 33 schools with two or three languages including Polish classes. Recently, there were more than 120 such schools to which over 22 000 students attended. Today, in Polish schools there are about 18 000 pupils. According to the last census, in 2011 in Lithuania lived about 205 000 people with Polish identity. However, unofficial data says that there may be up to 300 000 such people. In Poland, in Puńsk community where live about 4 500 citizens, there exists 5 Lithuanian minority schools. In the nearby Sejny there are 2 facilities. In all, about 500 students attend to the Lithuanian schools. According to the census from 2011, in Poland live 5 500 people who have Lithuanian identity. However, Lithuanian Embassy in Poland reported that they counted more than 15 000.
The decision about closing the Lithuanian schools which are situated about 9 kilometers from Puńsk – in Przystawince and Nowinniki, and in Widegiery which are situated at the length of about 14 kilomeres was going to be made two years ago in February 2011. However, at that time, the counsels did not agree with the Mayor’s decision – Vytautasa Liskauskasa. They agreed only to close one school in Smolany where were 13 pupils. The community had to pay for it about 250 000 Polish zloty per year.
The closing of three more schools will allow the community to save approximately 1,2 million Polish zloty out of 2,2 million which are the funds allocated for the education.
Poland and Lithuania further founding their schools of national minorities. Polish schools in Lithuania – as well as other minorities schools – receive approximately 120 % of financial resources, and Lithuanian schools in Poland – approximately 150 %.
The appeals to the councilors of Lithuania and to the Polish government
The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite and the Ministry of Education Dainius Payalkis appealed to the Lithuanian councilors not to make a decision about closing these three Lithuanian schools. The Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said that eventually his government will be able to support the Lithuanian schools on the amount of 400 000 lithium. But first, Algirdas Butkevicius would like to convince the Prime Mister of Poland – Donald Tusk – to grant Lithuanian institutions in Puńsk.
Tłumaczenie Diana Omiljaniuk w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Diana Omiljaniuk the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.