• February 11, 2022
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Attack of the Liberal-Conservative Authorities on the Polish School in Senieji Trakai

Leave the school as it is now. It cannot be reorganized or closed – this is the firm position of the community of Andrzej Stelmachowski Elementary School in Senieji Trakai, which on Thursday, February 10, met with representatives of the local government of the Trakai district.

Andrius Šatevičius, mayor of the Trakai district, deputy mayor Jonas Kietavičius, director of the Administration of the Self-Government of the Trakai Region Jolanta Abucevičienė, deputy director Agata Mankeliūnienė and adviser to the mayor Evelina Kislych-Šochienė came to the meeting with the school community. The meeting was also attended by councilors of the local government of the Trakai district, Maria Pucz, Teresa Sołowjowa, Tadeusz Tuczkowski, and the president of the Trakai District branch of an Association of Poles in Lithuania, Jarosław Narkiewicz, advisor to the Member of Parliament of the RL.

The purpose of the visit of the high guests to an educational institution, which has been teaching children and young people in the native Polish language in this town of the Trakai region for over 100 years, was to present the postulates of the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of an amendment to the conditions for establishing a network of schools providing formal education” of December 22, 2021, but also, as the mayor emphasized, to listen to the opinion of the school community on the pending changes, and to get advice.

The information about the resolution mentioned above reached Polish schools in the Trakai region in the last days of last year, in the form of a mayor’s ordinance on the appointment of a special commission, which immediately started implementing the document.

As reported by Elwira Lavrukaitienė, deputy headmistress of the Andrzej Stelmachowski Elementary School in Senieji Trakai, in January, the administration of the educational institution had to present to the local government a vision for the next school years – 2022-2026.

– We presented our vision after the school council meeting, where we decided that our school should retain its current status, i.e., remain a primary school for national minorities, providing education at the pre-school, early-school, elementary and primary levels – emphasized the deputy headmistress.

In accordance with the postulates of the the Liberal-Conservative government’s December resolution, as of September 1 of this year, primary schools, junior high schools, and high schools, with 60 or fewer students studying according to the pre-school, early-school, and general education curriculum should be reorganized or closed, except for special schools and special education centers. Further points of the resolution say, among other things, that beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, grades 5-8 will not be combined. Grades 9-10 (1st-2nd grades of junior high school) will not be joined, and the smallest number of students in combined grades 1-4 and 5-10 must not be less than 8, in junior high school – not less than 12 students.

Exceptionally, classes may be smaller in general education schools where teaching is conducted in the languages of national minorities, and schools with Lithuanian as the language of instruction, if these schools are located in the Vilnius, Šalčininkai, or Neringa regions.

According to the representatives of the local government, the Trakai region does not have any special status; therefore, schools must be reorganized on par with schools across the country.

– We are looking at the general numbers and searching for the most optimal variant – said the mayor presenting his vision of a Polish school in Senieji Trakai.

And it looks like this: from the new school year, grades 9-10 will be transferred to the Junior High School in Trakai, and Andrzej Stelmachowski Primary School in Senieji Trakai will become a branch of an educational institution in Trakai. Another option proposed by the district authorities is to connect the Polish elementary school in Senieji Trakai to the Lithuanian elementary school of Kęstučio, operating in the same town. In the opinion of local government clergy, the beforementioned reorganization will ensure high quality of education, and above all, save money and obtain investment funds for the development of education in the region.

The community of the historical school in Senieji Trakai does not agree with the proposals of the local government and focuses its attention on other values that should be provided by an educational institution, which is also a source of native tradition, culture, and national awareness.

– For us, parents, quality education means, above all: the well-being of our children, the possibility of education in the mother tongue, a safe environment for the emotional and physical development of our children, and a guarantee of excellent learning results that will provide the basis of knowledge and further perspectives in education. These are the core values that determined the choice of this particular teaching institution. We want our children to continue their education and finish it without introducing any changes – The opinion of parents, expressed Agnieszka Rynkiewicz, mother of a 4th-grade student.

Have the arguments of the community of Andrzej Stelmachowski Primary School in Senieji Trakai been heard and appealed to local government officials? We will certainly find out soon. But the school administration, with the entire community at its head, and politicians defending the interests of Polish education in Lithuania, are not going to give up their arms and fight to the end. Because the Polish school in Senieji Trakai must be preserved as it is today.

Irena Mikulewicz
Photo by the author

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

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