• May 20, 2016
  • 381

Uncertain Future of Joachim Lelewel School in Vilnius

Pursuant to the Vilnius Council’s decision, the Joachim Lelewel Secondary School at 33 Antokolska Street is to begin the 2016-2017 school year in another building.

However, it has still not received any ruling from the Vilnius local government as for the renovation and, above all, financial means, so more than 2 million euro, which will be spent on it.

 “We have to inaugurate the new school year in the new building already. For the time being, the tender is just going on; the contractor is due to be selected only in the middle of June. And when will the renovation begin? We don’t have any specific information. We won’t leave these walls until the renovation is carried out,” Edyta Zubel, the headmaster of the famous ‘school number five,’ told “Kurier.”

Parents are appalled by the situation and demand defence of their children’s rights. On Thursday, 19th May, a meeting took place in an active and turbulent manner. Parents assured the Vilnius local government mayor’s adviser, Albertas Lakštauskas, as well as Kristina Cibulskytė of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports of the Vilnius municipality that they did not intend to leave their school. They handed in a petition with their proposals and postulates, which demanded, above all, that the local government immediately issued a request for accreditation to the Ministry of Education and Science, and that – at the next meeting of the Vilnius Council – it canceled the act ruling that the School was to be relocated from Antakalnis to Minties Street. Representatives of the Vilnius City AWPL Faction approve of parents’ reasonable postulates and are going to keep defending their rights as well.

Renata Cytacka, Chairman of the Parents’ Forum at Polish Schools, poses a rhetoric question: “Why does the community of this school always have to fight for its rights to learn in its native language, which it is entitled to?”

 “After World War II parents and students also fought, were repressed, and still they succeeded. Now, when we’re apparently a democratic country, we still have to defend our school. The meeting on 19th May was attended by a lot of parents along with government representatives – the mayor’s adviser Albertas Lakštauskas and Kristina Cibulskytė of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports of the Vilnius local government – who heard clearly that the parents did not plan to leave that school. I just don’t know if they saw what a great determination dominates among the school community. I think the school can be defended in one way only – through a strike. As we can see, all the other methods do not work.  Whether the school remains where it is or not depends then mostly on the parents’ determination,” says Renata Cytacka.

The Centro School was promised that it would stay in its building if it gave up applying for the ‘gimnazjum’ status, and today the school does not exist any longer.

 “The ruling coalition – liberals and conservatives – does not listen to its residents’ pleas. The decision concerning the Lelewel School has been made without permission and without any consultations with the school community. Parents remember well the perfidious blackmail from Benkunskas, who said: “the building for accreditation.” They’ve sued the Council’s resolution and are fighting for the right to be able to learn in their native language in Antakalnis. Liberals and conservatives’ promises are worth nothing. If they had just a little bit of goodwill, let alone conscience, the renovation works would have begun last summer already. They’d have had to be adequately prepared when coming to meetings with the school community. They should have had the work plan, schedule of public tenders, visualisation of the renovation works in Minties Street, plan of the accreditation process, etc. Not only did they not have these documents but also had not got any information on how the works were going. It fully shows with what respect the authorities treat their residents. It’s scandalous!” resents Cytacka.

The renovation is a planned process, not some kind of grace from the ruling coalition. The adviser and department head had not even known that the works were going to be financed from the European funds. The mayor’s adviser Lakštauskas promised that the internal works would have been completed by 26th August 2016.

 “We’ll see, but we can see today already that the deadlines of just the public tenders tell us something different. The adviser assured that builders would work in two and three shifts and would manage to complete the renovation of the Wiwulski Primary School in Minties Street within the deadline, so until 26th August 2016. Apparently there are already some arrangements with the contractor?! How is it possible if the competition’s results are due to be revealed in the middle of June? Maybe the winner is “MG Baltic” or a company of one of her daughters? But he wasn’t able to promise that the local government would do what parents of the ‘school number five’ wished and submit the request for accreditation of the School in Antakalnis,” the chairman of the Parents’ Forum at Polish Schools asks a rhetoric question.

Meanwhile, the Vilnius Municipality Deputy Mayor Valdas Benkunskas said when interviewed by “Kurier” that the Lelewel School was located in two buildings – in Antakalnis and Žirmūnai – which did not have the full number of students.

 “In the ‘progimnazjum’ with Lithuanian as the language of instruction in Antakalnis, students outnumber the seats in classrooms. They have problems with room. That’s why it was decided that the building in Antokolska Street, which currently belongs to the Lelewel School, would be given to the progimnazjum with Lithuanian as the language of instruction. That decision was adopted last summer already,” Valdas Benkunskas pointed out.

The deputy mayor assures that money for the renovation will be provided.

 “We’re waiting for the school year to finish so that we start the renovation of the Wiwulski Primary School at 3 Minties Street. The tender for the renovation works contractor is due to be settled soon, and so in the middle of June we’ll choose the winner. And then the internal works will start. They will be finished on 26th August. Then the school will be able to be granted the status of the so-called ‘long gimnazjum.’ I can assure that the money will be provided. The municipality has a fund destined for this purpose in its budget. It’s estimated that the renovation will cost over 2 million euro. In the autumn renovation of the building’s façade is due to begin. Those works will not interfere with learning at school. The school grounds will be cleared up as well,” said Valdas Benkunskas.

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

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