Lithuanian education act is ‘discrimination’ say Polish minority
PR dla Zagranicy
Politicians representing the Polish minority in Lithuania have appealed to the Equal Rights Ombudsmen in Vilnius to repeal education legislation which they claim is discriminatory towards those from a Polish background in the Baltic state.
MPs from the Polish Election Action in Lithuania (AWPL), the political wing of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, argue that the legislation gives powers to local governments to close a school in districts where there exist two schools – one with classes in Lithuanian and the other in Polish – if one of them does not have a required minimum of pupils.
The amended Education Act stipulates closure of the Polish school in such cases.
The appeal to the ombudsman comes at a time of tension in relations between Poland and Lithuania, described last year by the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw as having “never been worse”.
MP Leonard Talmont, whose party represents the 250,000-strong Polish minority in the country, has asked the Lithuanian ombudsmen whether the new education act passed earlier this year does not infringe students’ rights in Polish language schools who wish to complete their education in their native language.
MP Talmont said he is certain the ombudsman will reject the appeal, in which case he says his centre-right party, which has three seats in the Seimas (parliament) representing Polish interests, will take the case to court.
The new Education Act also provides for increasing the number of subjects taught in Lithuanian in Polish schools’ curricula and unifying high school leaving exams in Lithuanian for all students within two academic years.
The move has triggered strong protest from the Polish community, especially from the Vilnius district where most live.
The Forum of Polish School Children’s Parents has gathered over 60,000 signatures under a petition demanding an annulment of the new regulations. The matter has discussed by the Lithuanian and Polish education ministers when they met in Brussels last month.
The Polish minority also claim they face linguistic discrimination in Lithuania, where local authorities refuse to use bilingual road signs in the outskirts of Vilnius, which are densely inhabited by Poles.
Polish minority MPs also demand to be able to use Polish spelling for surnames. For instance the MEP representing the Polish Election Action party in the European Parliament, Waldemar Tomaszewski, must use the Lithuanian Valdemar Tomaševski on official forms. (pg/ss)