- September 2, 2015
Over 90% of Polish schools participated in a protest
On the 2nd of September, the so-called empty benches strike was held in the national minorities’ schools. Around 95% of schools with Polish as the language of instruction in Lithuania joined the protest.
On this day, children attending the national minorities’ schools, including the Polish ones, did not attend classes. This is a way of expressing protest against the government’s actions directed against educational institutions teaching children in Polish, Russian, or any other language of national minorities.
100% of Polish schools in the Vilnius region participated in the strike. In the Vilnius region, all 32 Polish schools, in the Šalčininkai region – all 18 educational institutions with Polish as the language of instruction.
In the Trakai region, 4 out of 5 Polish schools joined the protest, in Vilnius – seven out of nine, the Władysław Syrokomla and the Joachim Lelewel High Schools in Vilnius took the most active part in the strike. Among the Russian schools in Vilnius, the students of the Lew Karsawin High School participated in the protest.
Although politicians and media attempted to discourage parents from joining the strike by intimidating and threatening them with penalties and fines, parents of the national minority children demonstrated full awareness and did not send them to school.
A holy mass for the defense and development of Polish education in the Vilnius region was celebrated by the open window of the chapel of the Gate of Dawn. Around 2000 people attended it.
Today, the defenders of Polish education were supported by Polish authorities. Marek Kuchciński, the Deputy Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, prayed to the Dawn Gate Mother of Mercy together with Poles. Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, the Minister of National Education of the Republic of Poland, expressed her desire to help. She is writing a letter to her counterpart in the Lithuanian government for the defense of Polish schools in Lithuania,
Besides, an act on Polish schools in Lithuania is being prepared in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. This legislative step is precedential in the whole history of the Parliament in independent Poland.
Translated by Diana Dymel within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.