- September 11, 2015
The Polish Sejm has adopted a resolution concerning Polish education in Lithuania
On Friday the Sejm almost unanimously adopted a resolution in which it expressed its anxiety at the process of limiting the access to education in Polish for Poles living in Lithuania.
Four hundred and eleven members of the Parliament voted for the adoption of the resolution, and four voted against. Nobody abstained from voting.
In the resolution the Sejm appeals to the Lithuanian authorities for “taking action in order to provide the Polish minority with appropriate conditions for proper development of the education in Polish, in accordance with the universally accepted European standards.” “We want to build relationships based on mutual respect of rights and identities of both countries’ citizens,” it was pointed out.
It was noted also that, during last several months, protests took place in Polish schools in Lithuania. “It is another proof of the determination of the Polish minority, which aims at preservation of the identity, language, and culture,” they highlighted.
Also, it was pointed out that Poland and Lithuania have mutual, centuries-old history. “It obligates us to mutual respect in the fields of politics, society, and culture. Both states are now members of the Council of Europe, EU, and NATO – organisations that uphold the integrity of countries and national minorities’ rights, such as ethnical identity, language, culture, and education,” they wrote.
They called to mind that Poles have lived in Lithuania for centuries. ”In the 19th and 20th centuries they experienced painful consequences of two national uprisings, the tragedy of two world wars, ethnic cleansings, deportations, and resettlements. They survived it all and retained their identity, and so they all the more have the right to cultivate their own national culture and language, just as Lithuanians do in Poland”, it was highlighted.
“Education is an important part of their culture. The retention of Polish secondary school status, which responds to the needs of local communities, is a condition for the Polish language and Polish culture to survive on the land on which they have existed for centuries. The Poles living in Lithuania form an integral part of the Lithuanian state – they are its loyal citizens. The Polish language and Polish culture constitute undeniable richness of the Republic of Lithuania,” we can read in the Sejm resolution.
Approximately 90 schools in which the instruction is provided in Polish function in Lithuania. In these schools there are about 12,000 students. Poles are the most numerous national minority in Lithuania – they constitute 6,6 percent of all inhabitants.
On 1st September 2015 over 500 students of Polish schools in Lithuania did not go to school, but took part in a mass celebrated by the image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius. Initially an open-ended strike had been announced, but eventually it was transformed into a strike alert.
Protesting students and their parents demand among other things canceling the bill on education of 2011, which, according to Lithuanian Poles, discriminates Polish education in this country. They object to the idea of unifying the exam in Lithuanian both in national minorities’ and Lithuanian schools. They want the obligatory exam in native language (Polish) to be brought back on the list of the Matura exams and the funding of national minorities’ schools to be increased.
Minister of Education Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska has written a letter to Lithuanian Minister of Education and Science Audrone Pitreniene, in which she asked for re-consideration of the ensuing postulates. On request of Poland, there was a meeting of Polish and Lithuanian deputy ministers of education – Ewa Dudek and Genoveita Krasauskiene respectively, which took place on Thursday in Vilnius.
The Ministry of National Education in Poland has informed that Dudek proposed the resumption of the working party’s work. The group consists of national minorities’ representatives and emerged as part of the Ministry of Education and Science in 2011. It was supposed to monitor the situation of national minorities’ schools. According to the Polish Ministry of Education, it was established in the meeting that the Polish-Lithuanian team of experts on national minorities’ education will resume work. By Lithuanian minister’s declaration, work of both groups is to begin by the end of this year.
During the debate concerning the bill Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Henryka Mościcka-Dendys said that the list of open subjects in Polish-Lithuanian relations had not been changed since 1994 and at any moment any of the Polish governments had not achieved a significant breakthrough in recent years. As she said, education was a priority for the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The deputy minister pointed out that legal regulations regarding education in Lithuania rested with this state exclusively. “They cannot be regulated by Poland trying to impose some solutions,” she said. “We are striving to create an atmosphere of trust around these issues and rather mediate instead of exacerbating the conflict.”
Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.