• May 4, 2015
  • 298

Appeal in defence of Polish schools in Lithuania

As we previously reported, in the days of April 29 – May 3, representatives of Polish community in Lithuania, invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Grzegorz Schetyna and president of the Association ‘Polish Community’ Longin Komołowski, stayed in Poland for the celebration of the Polonia and Poles Living Abroad Day and the 25th anniversary of the Association. On May 2, during an official meeting with Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Konrad Pawlik and Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, the AWPL delegation discussed the situation of Polish minority in Lithuania, focusing in particular on the issues currently threatening Polish education in Lithuania. Below we publish the letter which was delivered by the representatives of AWPL to the head of Polish diplomacy, Grzegorz Schetyna.

Minister Grzegorz Schetyna,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

After Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, the condition of national minorities in Lithuania, including the Polish one, paradoxically, deteriorated greatly. It is not just about anti-Polish moods in the media or statements by some politicians, but also the legislative restrictions of the rights of national minorities. Namely, in 2010 there have been a great legal regression in this field, as National Minorities Act has been annulled and a new one has not been passed to this day.

Another element of the restriction against national minorities is the field of education. In 2011, despite multiple protests and against the will of 60 000 citizens, who signed under them, an amendment of the Law on Education has been adopted, that severally limited the right of national minorities in the field of education in the mother tongue. Beside unresolved issues, such as not printing textbooks in the mother tongue or reducing financing from ‘the student’s basket’ for national minorities students, a severe blow was dealt by unifying the Lithuanian language exam. Such discriminating amendment was passed, regardless of the fact that students of national minorities schools had 800 hours less of the Lithuanian language than their peers from Lithuanian schools, which resulted in deterioration of results of Polish students on Lithuanian language final exam. Due to notorious restriction of national minorities rights in the last 10 years. dozens of Polish schools have been closed or degraded.

As part of so-called reorganization of schools currently a dozen of Polish schools, which teach from form 1 to 12, is in danger.

Wł. Syrkomla High School in Vilnius
Sz. Konarski High School in Vilnius
J. Lelewel High School in Vilnius
Lazdynai High School in Vilnius
Paluknio High School in the Trakai District
Adam Mickiewicz High School in Dieveniškės in the Šalčininkai District
Eliza Orzeszkowa High School in Baltoji Vokė in the Šalčininkai District
Zujūnų High School in the Vilnius District
St. John Bosco High School in Egliškių in the Vilnius District
St. Casimir High School in Medininkai in the Vilnius District
Čekoniškių High School in the Vilnius District
Sužionių High School in the Vilnius District

Vilnius and Šalčininkai Districts Municipalities are being forced to close down forms 11 and 12 in schools in Čekoniškių, Sužionių, Baltoji Vokė and Dieveniškės. Due to lack of a given number of students those schools were forced to close down forms 11 and 12. However, communities of other schools firmly oppose degradation, as they believe the Ministry of Education deliberately delays granting permission for accreditation.

In Paluknio, in the Trakai District, a Lithuanian schools with not much higher number of students received permission to keep 12 forms, while Paluknio school with 89 students did not. If it does not receive accreditation, it is in danger of being closed completely.

It is worth pointing out, how Lithuanian schools are being treated in Poland – in Sejny a school complex with forms from 1 to 12 has 67 students. In Lithuania, Polish schools with much higher number of students are in danger of being closed down.

In the Vilnius Region, St. John Bosco High School in Egliškių (258 students) and Zujūnų High School (133 students) still have not received accreditation.

Peculiar situation takes place in the capital. In Vilnius the accreditation of big, Polish schools is delayed which causes a lot of agitation and disturbs the regular learning process. Parents and students are outraged by this, which is why recently there was a rally of the Vilnius Wł. Syrkomla High School community, with the demand to speed up accreditation of their school, which has 869 students.

Also in danger of being degraded is J. Lelewel High School – famous ‘Fifth’ on Antakalnis, from which graduated many famous Vilnius residents, including the Noble prize winner Czesław Miłosz. Currently, it has 462 students, so delaying accreditation is completely unfounded, as it is in the case of Sz. Konarski High School (403 students) and Lazdynai High School (597 students).

Communities of Polish schools are desperate, because not only are there no reliefs for national minorities schools, but also Lithuanian law is being violated and artificial obstacles are created to prevent accreditation, citing unlawful arguments – for instance in case of Wł. Syrkomla High School in Vilnius, the Ministry needs a second shareholder, although the law does not require it at all.

The Polish people in Lithuania see such delaying of the accreditation of Wł. Syrkomla High School by the Ministry of Education as a political play, to later on agree for the accreditation of this school, but degrade all the others. Then it can only be commented: ‘shame, we could not accredit all of them’. As it can be seen, there are no legal arguments to not accredit those schools, which is why 12 form cycle of teaching should be preserved. Otherwise, it will be a sign of extremely bad faith towards Polish minority and discrimination in education.

We sincerely ask for support in defending Polish schools in Lithuania.

Please accept, Sir, the assurances of our highest consideration,

Waldemar Tomaszewski, leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL), Member of European Parliament
Michał Mackiewicz, president of the Association of Poles in Lithuania (ZPL), member of the Lithuanian Parliament
Józef Kwiatkowski, president of the Society of Polish Schools’ Teachers in Lithuania ‘Macierz Szkolna’, member of the Lithuanian Parliament
Rita Tamaszuniene, president of the Parliament fraction of AWPL, member of the Lithuanian Parliament
Leonard Talmont, vice-president of AWPL, member of the Lithuanian Parliament
Wanda Krawczonok, vice-president AWPL, member of the Lithuanian Parliament
Jarosław Narkiewicz, president of Trakai Regional Chapter of ZPL, deputy speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament
Maria Rekść, vice-president of AWPL, Mayor of Vilnius District
Zdzisław Palewicz, president of Šalčininkai Regional Chapter of ZPL, Mayor of Šalčininkai District
Jarosław Kamiński, ex-vice-president of Vlinius City, Vlinius City Councilman
Artur Ludkowski, ex-vice-president of Vlinius City, Vlinius City Councilman

Translated by Antonina Górka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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