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The appeal for the defence of Polish schools in Lithuania

On 29th April – 3rd May representatives of the Polish community in Lithuania visited Poland to celebrate the Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad and the 25th anniversary of the association ‘Wspólnota Polska’ (Polish Community) on the invitation of the Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna and the President of ‘Wspólnota Polska’ Longin Komołowski. On 2nd May the official meeting of EAPL delegation with Polish Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs Konrad Pawlik and Henryka Mościcka-Dendys took place. During the meeting, the situation of Polish minority in Lithuania was discussed. Particular attention was paid to the problems currently surrounding the Polish education in Lithuania. Below we publish the letter of the EAPL representatives to the head of Polish diplomacy Grzegorz Schetyna.

Dear Mr Minister Grzegorz Schetyna,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

After Lithuanian accession to the European Union in 2004, the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, including Polish, paradoxically got much worse. It is not only about anti-Polish attitude noticeable in the Lithuanian media or statements of some politicians, but it also concerns legislative restrictions of the rights of national minorities. Namely, in 2010 there was a huge legal setback in this area, since government cancelled the Law on National Minorities and has not adopted the new one so far.

Another part of restrictions on national minorities concerns the field of education. New law on education, which has strongly limited the rights of national minorities in the area of education in their mother tongue, was adopted in 2011. The law was adopted despite repeated protests and against 60 000 citizens who have submitted their signatures. Except unresolved issues such as stopping printing textbooks in minorities’ native languages or reduction of funding from the student’s basket for schools of national minorities, the decision to unify the Lithuanian language exam was the most painful. Such discriminatory amendment was adopted in spite of the fact that students from minority schools had 800 hours of the Lithuanian language lessons less than their peers from Lithuanian schools, what caused notably worsened performance of students from Polish schools during matriculation exam of the Lithuanian language. Several Polish schools were closed or downgraded because of the widespread tightening of the rights of national minorities in the past ten years.

Due to the so-called reorganization of schools, several Polish educational institutions, which lead the teaching from 1 to 12 grades, are endangered at present:

Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School,
Vilnius Simono Konarskio Secondary School,
Vilnius Joachimo Lelevelio Secondary School,
Vilnius Lazdynų Secondary School,
Trakai district Paluknio Secondary School,
Šalčininkai district Dieveniškės Adomo Mickevičiaus Secondary School,
Šalčininkai district Baltosios Vokės Elizos Ožeškovos Secondary School,
Vilnius district Zujūnai Secondary School,
Vilnius district Egliškės Šv. Jono Bosko Secondary School,
Vilnius district Medininkai Šv. Kazimiero Secondary School,
Vilnius district Čekoniškės Secondary School,
Vilnius district Sužionys Secondary School.

Vilnius and Šalčininkai districts’ self-governments are forced to close 11’s and 12’s grades at schools in Čekoniškės, Sužionys, Baltoji Vokė and Dieveniškės due to the lack of students in the mentioned grades in these schools. In turn, communities of other schools categorically disagree to the demotion of schools or some grades because in their opinion Ministry of Education is deliberately delaying to issue the permission for accreditation.

Lithuanian school in Paluknys (Trakai district) with slightly more students received the permission to keep 12 grades, while national minority school with 89 students – no. If it does not receive the accreditation, it will be threatened with liquidation.

It is worth to mention how Lithuanian schools are treated in Poland – there are 67 students in schools group of 1-12 grades with education in the Lithuanian language in Sejny town. And Polish schools in Lithuania with a lot more students are threatened with liquidation.

The situation in Vilnius district is the following: Egliškės Šv. Jono Bosko Secondary School (258 students) and Zujūnai Secondary School (133 students) still do not get the accreditation. The situation is also problematic in the capital.

There is delay in accreditation of main Polish schools in Vilnius. This introduces great concern and hinders normal learning process. Parents and students are outraged because of the situation. That is why the rally of Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School community took place recently. People demanded to accelerate the process of accreditation for their school, which is attended by 869 students.

Unfortunately, it is also possible that Vilnius Joachimo Lelevelio Secondary School may be degraded too. This is a famous No. 5 school in Antakalnis, where many famous Vilnius residents studied, including Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. There are 462 students currently and this is the reason why the delay of the school accreditation is completely unjustified. The situation of Vilnius Simono Konarskio Secondary School (403 students) and Vilnius Lazdynų Secondary School (597 students) is very similar. Polish schools communities are desperate, because not only there is no relief for national minorities schools, but also the Lithuanian law is violated and artificial obstacles are created for accreditation by giving the unlawful arguments – for example in case of Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School the ministry wants to have a second shareholder, although the law does not require it.

Poles in Lithuania see such delays of the Ministry of Education to accredit Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School as a political manipulation – they would agree to accredit the school, but degrade other mentioned schools. Later, the Ministry could say that unfortunately it was not possible to accredit all the schools. There is no legal arguments to not to accredit these schools, therefore the 12-grade learning system should be preserved. Otherwise, it will be an especially negative act against the Polish minority and obvious discrimination in the field of education.

We would like to ask for your support in defence of Polish schools in Lithuania.

With great respect,

Valdemar Tomaševski, Leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Member of the European Parliament
Michal Mackevič, President of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Juzef Kvetkovskij, President of the Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania ‘Macierz Szkolna’, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Rita Tamašunienė, Chairwoman of the EAPL Faction in the Seimas, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Leonard Talmont, EAPL Vice Chairman, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Vanda Kravčionok, EAPL Vice Chairwoman, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Jaroslav Narkevič, President of the Trakai district branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Marija Rekst, EAPL Vice Chairwoman, Vilnius District Mayor
Zdzislav Palevič, President of the Šalčininkai district branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, Šalčininkai District Mayor
Jaroslav Kaminski, Former Vice Mayor of the Vilnius City, Vilnius City Council Member
Artur Ludkovski, Former Vice Mayor of the Vilnius City, Vilnius City Council Member