• September 1, 2015
  • 296

Demonstration in defence of Lelewel School: We oppose the exile

Expressing their discontent over the prospect of moving Vilnius’ Joachim Lelewel High School from Antakalnis to its branch building in Žirmūnai the community of this legendary school organized a protest today outside the capital’s government headquarters.

“City authorities decided to reform our school without considering our needs, feelings or dreams; namely, they want to close down our school in Antakalnis and relocate it to a different district. That is why here and now, collectively with the parents, we want to say out loud – we don’t agree to the exile, we want to stay within the walls of our “Piątka” (“Five”). With tears in their eyes, the grandfathers talk about the cost at which they retained the Polish school during the difficult post-war period. Once again dark clouds have gathered above Polish education, but we, the young generation, feel responsible for our language and heritage, so we will do everything to keep our school in Antakalnis,” said an 11th grade student from Lelewel High School during the demonstration.

Following a decision by Vilnius town councillors, from the next academic year onwards, Lelewel School has to move from Antakalnis to its Minities street branch.

The parents oppose the metropolitan council’s resolution.

“All we can do is fight for our school. The first court session will take place on 27th October. The parents actively joined in to defend the school. Students are also really engaged. Lelewel School is the only Polish-Russian school in Antakalnis. It is attended by students from further afield like Dworczany and Gałgi. Moving the school is unacceptable. The school must stay in Antakalnis,” said Renata Słowińska from the School Defence Committee.

Students, graduates, parents and supporters of the one of the oldest Polish schools in Vilnius participated in the demonstration.

“How long is our local government going to bully the students, parents, and teachers of this school? It was the first post-war Polish school in Vilnius,” said Krystyna Adamowicz, a graduate from the famous “Piątka”. She emphasized that the authorities are annihilating Lelewel school by trying to relocate it to a different district.

She added that today’s demonstration is not only a fight for the “Piątka”: “We are protesting today against the event that has occurred in Kowarski High School. Only yesterday they received information that grades 11 and 12 are being removed. It is an insolent move on the part of the authorities,” she said.

“We hope that the local authorities will take our requests into consideration. The school in Antakalnis is a school with a long tradition. My parents studied here, my uncles, myself, and now my daughter. I want this tradition to continue. My child is crying and says that she prefers going to the school where it is right now, not on the other side of the river. It’s inconvenient for us,” said Danuta Makowska, mother of a 3rd grade pupil.

“We want to remain in the current school building,” said Jadwiga Rykojć, another “Piątka” pupil’s mother.

The parents think that the council’s resolution of 15 July is groundless, illegal and contradictory to a number of legal acts. They also say that it threatens the interests and rights of the applicants, wasn’t consulted upon with the school community, and was adopted in a hurry without considering the opinions of school communities.

The petition handed over by the parents to Vilnius authorities reads: “Our school community proposes to the Council of Vilnius, and to the mayor of Vilnius together with the members of the Lelewel High School Council, like in a truly democratic country, to talk once more about the current situation and, collectively, to come up with a satisfactory solution to this problem. We are sure that our rights and the rights of our children have been breached. Our interests and expectations about the reorganization of the school have not been taken into consideration, and the decisions were not discussed  with us. We would like to highlight point 5 of Article 28 of the Education Law, where it is said that during the formation of the public school network, according to the Law Acts, consultation with residents must take place in order to protect social interest.”

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

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