A few thoughts about equality which starts to discriminate…

Fot. wilnoteka.lt/Bartosz Frątczak

On the 1st of June, instead of celebrating the International Children’s Day, parents and students of several Polish schools, who are threatened with the reduction of forms (out of 12 forms, 10 will remain) from the 1st of September, protested against state educational authorities’ and Vilnius local authorities’ decision in front of the government’s building. The protest has been noticed by the mass media, senior officials – from the president to the vice-minister of Education – were asked for the commentary on the issue. All of them claimed, however rightly, the reform of education (maybe someone remembers which one by now?) applies to all schools in Lithuania and provides equal rights for the majority as well as for the minorities. These are few words about equal rights…

Soviet constitutions and laws, as we all remember, also guaranteeded equal rights for everyone, provided “freedom of speech and religion”. When I was writing my PhD thesis on the Soviet confessional politics in Lithuania, my supervisor, law school graduate, emphasized the difference between the letter of law and its spirit with which the law is realized. The latter plays a bigger role than the statutory legacy…

In the context of the equality of national minorities’ rights it is obvious the real equality is not possible because, by definition, the minority is in worse situation that the majority. For example, if in a city quarter a majority’s language high school is closed down or reduced, the students are enlisted to the other school in the area of the same district. However, if this happens to the only one school with the minority’s language in a district, the students who want to continue studying in a native language have to commute to the school which may be localized at the other corner of the city.

In order to provide the majorities with the possibly best equality, lots of countries use the mechanism of “positive discrimination”, for instance they decrease the election threshold for the party of national minorities’ representatives, alongside state language they allow using the minorities’ language in the public life (in Poland this rule is present in regions where the majority is 20% of a total population), they support education, culture. As Czech historian Miroslav Hroch writes: “in the nation state national minorities do not have – if they do not want assimilate completely – any chance for a real equality with the members of dominating state nation. National minority has to accept this and it should not demand the absolute equality without a compromise. There will be always certain deficits and it is a matter of political culture if those deficits are minimalized to such an extent that the members of minorities are able to bear them.”

The fact of the matter is political culture and humane empathy of the Lithuanian officials and Polish activists in community and local organizations… Children should not be those who are protesting. Both representatives of majorities and of minorities are responsible for creating solutions for the children’s good, and not for holding down the jobs of heads, presidents or officials… If there is still an idea of “common good” in Lithuania.

Source: http://www.wilnoteka.lt/pl/artykul/o-rownosci-ktora-staje-sie-dyskryminacja-mysli-kilka

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

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