Rita Tamašunienė: Poles protected and will protect their ownership

2015-12-10, 13:06
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Rita Tamašunienė: Poles protected and will protect their ownership Photo by M. Paluskevic

L24 talked to the Chairwoman of the Seimas faction of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania Rita Tamašunienė about the situation of Polish education in Lithuania, the Lithuanian Government's attitude towards Polish schools, strikes of Polish educational institutions as well as postulates of teachers, students and their parents.

L24: You are strongly related to education. You were a teacher in Karvys and a principal of the school in Pikeliškės. You know the condition of Polish education in Lithuania very well. How does the situation look like today?
Rita Tamašunienė: I have been always interested in Polish education in the Vilnius Region. Furthermore, I think that the issue of education is the essential dilemma of every Lithuanian Pole. The school is our second home, where we can not only acquire knowledge, but also keep alive our national traditions and cultural values, it is a place which educates our future generations.
I think that the condition of Polish education in Lithuania is very good when speaking about teaching level and students' achievements. We can see it from the results of graduation exams taken by students of Polish schools. Polish schools are active and hold a high position in various education rankings. However, we should try to ensure the higher quantity of perfectly passed graduate exams (86-100 points).
But if we are talking about the attitude of the government towards Polish education as well as about working or teaching comfort at schools, the situation is no longer that good. Probably everyone has heard about the case of hasty degradations of some Polish secondary schools to the status of a primary school. Both parents and teachers describe this as the introduction of chaos, what does not help to create a cosy atmosphere at Polish schools.

L24: Not all Polish schools in Vilnius and in Vilnius district have already received their accreditation. What is the reason?
Rita Tamašunienė: Perhaps schools and accreditation commissions acted too long to receive accreditation. Although in some cases we can talk about the discriminatory politics against Polish schools when Lithuanian schools were granted their accreditation at a short notice, whereas the request of schools of Polish minority were refused despite similar conditions. We can mention the case of Vilnius Mikalojaus Daukšos Secondary School and famous Vilnius Joachimo Lelevelio Secondary School (Polish school) for example. An 'accreditation condition' which the latter has to fulfil is unacceptable - the school has to move to the building in the Žirmūnai district. I would like to highlight, that the determination of teachers, pupils and their parents to save their historic school is worthy of admiration. I think that, after all, the famous Lelevelio school not only will stay in the same building but will also achieve the status of a gymnasium.
Ministry of Education and Science as well as Vilnius City Municipality have conflicting opinions on Vilnius Vladislovo Sirokomlės Secondary School - Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of Vilnius, said that Christian educational model is not prescribed by the Lithuanian law, whereas some representatives of the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science during the meeting with members of the Seimas faction of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania which took place on 17th June 2015 claimed that such model does exist.
The Regulation on the program base of catholic education signed by mayor's comrade Gintaras Steponavičius, the then Minister of Education and Science, came into force on 16th November 2012.

L24: Many subjects in Polish schools are taught in Lithuanian. Is it a good form of education? Maybe it would be better to provide students with more Lithuanian language lessons while teach other subjects in Polish? After all, Polish students do think in Polish...
Rita Tamašunienė: There is no doubt that Polish pupils think in Polish and a friendly, cosy atmosphere should be ensured so that they could learn Lithuanian step by step. Contrary to the picture presented by the Lithuanian media, Poles in Lithuania do not make new demands all the time. Poles protected and protect Polish schools with the native language as their ownership. It would be enough to ensure a better standard of Lithuanian language learning at minority schools and this way, with the help of the environment, the knowledge of the state language would be on a high level.

L24: Even in Soviet times there was no such imposition of their language (Russian) on the Polish schools as it is now, in a free and democratic Lithuania. Lithuania infringes rights of national minorities and escapes unpunished all the time. When it will be over?

Rita Tamašunienė: Actions of the authorities of democratic Lithuanian are an example of denationalization and Lithuanization of national minorities. We need more determination from those who are responsible for the national minorities' rights in the European Union in order to break this process. Unfortunately, neither political parties in Lithuania, nor society which is manipulated by media do not understand and cannot enjoy the variety brought to the society by national minorities as well as their positive impact on a life in a democratic country.

L24: As we can see, there were many protests of Polish, Russian and even Lithuanian schools in 2015. Strike actions are the ultimate form of protest. Do you support such measures taken by the society to express their objection and opposition?
Rita Tamašunienė: I agree that strike actions are the ultimate measures, but it seems to be the only way when other means did not work. That is why I support strikes, because I cannot see any other remedies or ways to show the dissatisfaction of people. We have the right to strike, because it is guaranteed by democracy and Lithuania is said to be a democratic state.

L24: You are the Chairwoman of the Seimas faction of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. Your electorate and their children are tired of living in ignorance about Polish education and they are waiting for the help from their members of the parliament. What will you do? Can we even reach a deal with the Lithuanian authorities on such crucial issue?

Rita Tamašunienė: We have been actively working on that problem since we are in the Seimas. An amendment to the Law on Education regarding the prolongation of the accreditation period to 2017 will help lots of schools to get through the accreditation process and become gymnasiums even in extremely difficult conditions. We call for the dismissal of a unified exam of the Lithuanian language and for the exertion of reliefs for national minorities' schools in the Lithuanian language exam evaluation.
I think that after Seimas elections the new authorities will take into account the traditional educational model in our country, also known as 'under the same roof'. The system which divides schools into vertical sections and also school changing have a bad impact on children, because they cannot feel as part of their school, they simply do not have enough time to get used to one school.
It is not the first time, when the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania brings up in the Seimas the amendments to the state budget and Law on Education regarding the restoration of the so-called 'student basket', that has been cut down during the economic crisis, and also regarding the increase of financial support for national minorities' schools.

L24: Thank you for the conversation.

MSZ ENG"This project is co-financed from the funds granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland."

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