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National minorities ask for President’s help

Yesterday, at the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Lithuania, representatives of communities of 10 Polish and Russian schools held a protest action.
The protest participants presented a petition to the President Dalia Grybauskaitė entitled ‘On serious violation of legal acts in the field of education.’ The document was signed by the representatives of ten Polish and Russian schools in Vilnius: Vilniaus Aleksandro Puškino Secondary School, Vilnius Ateities Secondary School, Vilnius Centro Secondary School, Vilnius Fabijoniškių Secondary School, Vilnius Joachimo Lelevelio Secondary School, Vilnius Lazdynų Secondary School, Vilnius Levo Karsavino Secondary School, Vilnius Saulėtekio Secondary School, Vilnius Senamiesčio Secondary School, and Vilnius Simono Konarskio Secondary School.

The authors of the petition stated being worried about the future of their children.

‘We appeal to Your Excellency, Dear President, as the insurer of the Constitution and the Rule of Law, on the matter of a serious violation of legal acts in the field of education. We are concerned about the future of our children. We strongly oppose the biased, non-objective decisions, which breach the current legislation, prepared by the ruling majority of the Vilnius City Municipality,’ the representatives stated.

Within the contents of the petition, the signatories have also declared that draft decisions of the field of education prepared for the Vilnius City Council meeting on 15th July violate laws and other legal acts.

Schools’ representatives asked the President for help.

‘Upon the implementation of the amendment to the Law on Education of the Republic of Lithuania, schools can continue their secondary education curriculum until 2017 and remain being secondary schools. Vilnius City Municipality vice-mayor V.Benkunskas publicly discredits the Republic of Lithuania, stressing that he will not exercise the law of the Republic of Lithuania and will not follow the mentioned amendment. We turn to you, Ms President, with the request to take actions as soon as possible and to ensure that the laws and legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania are no longer being violated,’ the community asked.

Polish and Russian schools’ communities are highly concerned about the actions of the new ruling coalition in Vilnius.

‘Please note that the Vilnius City Municipality’s ruling coalition discounts and ignores the requests and disagreements of the school communities concerning the restructuring and reorganization of secondary schools, hindering the legal rights of the pupils and their parents. The students are forced to change schools suddenly, which will put them under unnecessary stress and will breach their right to study in the school of their choosing, to which they are accustomed and are familiar with. The students have submitted requests to continue their education in their schools in the 11th grade, educational plans for kids have been prepared for 2015-2016 academic year. Furthermore, the final year students that have only one year left, must complete their studies in their schools, and cannot be forced to choose another school. No one can prepare the students for their final exams better than a teacher that has known and taught his pupils over the course of seven years. Members of the schools’ communities (teachers, pupils and their parents) are constantly put under stress, as the restructuring process is being carried out during the summer vacation. Is it possible to assess the psychological and spiritual state of mind of young people, when they discover that they cannot return to their schools in September? The damage this will make to our children is beyond repair. We demand that our children are not deprived of their right to complete education in the schools of their choosing. We will take all the necessary legal measures to ensure that our children return to their schools on 1st September. They have a constitutional right to do so as the Lithuanian citizens,’ said the schools’ representatives and gave examples of the application of double standards.

‘We want to emphasize that in neighbouring Poland, in Sejny town, a Lithuanian gymnasium with 67 students in 1st-12th grades is operating. There is also an accredited secondary schooling programme and a number of functioning gymnasiums: Paluknio Gymnasium in Trakai district, which enrolled 141 students; Lavoriškių Gymnasium in Vilnius district with 170 students; Dieveniškių Ryto Secondary School in Šalčininkai district, with 122 students. Meanwhile large secondary schools in the city of Vilnius are deprived of the right to be secondary schools and to be accredited in the future, for example Vilnius Ateities Secondary School has 659 students, Vilnius Levo Korsavino School – 558 students, Vilnius Joachimo Lelevelio School – 462 students, Vilnius Lazdynų Secondary School – 597 students, and Vilnius Aleksandro Puškino – 724 students. Then why our children, who are Vilnius residents, are deprived of the right to study in the secondary schools of their choosing?’ the protesters asked.

School representatives have pointed out that the amendment of legislation will change the future of 5000 children.

‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes everyone’s right to education: ‘Education is designed to be educated in all aspects of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. (…) Parents have a prior right to choose their children’s education’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 26, paragraph 2 and 3).’ Dear Ms President, we ask you, as the insurer of the Constitution, to protect the right of our 5000 children to study in the school of their own choosing,’ the school communities requested.

The protest organizers added three attachments to the petition: Vilnius City Council’s draft decisions on Joachimo Lelevelio Secondary School restructuring and replacement of residence, the amendment of 2014-10-08 Council’s decision No.1-2041 entitled ‘General plan approval of the Vilnius City Municipality’s 2014-2015 network restructuring of the general education schools’, and Vilnius City Municipality’s restructuring of the general education schools into primary schools.