Polish ethnic minority schools launched an open-ended strike in Lithuania on Wednesday in protest against blanket reforms on the teaching of the Lithuanian language.
Instead of going to classes, many Polish pupils were escorted by their schools to a historic pilgrimage site in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, gathering at the city’s Gate of Dawn, where a 17th century icon of the Virgin Mary is kept.
According to the 2011 laws, minority schools were obliged to devote 800 hours more to the study of the Lithuanian language, in order to be in sync with the rest of the country.
Today’s action is being spearheaded by the Strike Committees of Polish Schools in Lithuania, the Parents’ Forum at Polish Schools, and the Committee for the Defence of Schools.
They have repeatedly claimed that pupils’ performances will suffer in other subjects, owing to the emphasis on preparing for the end-of-school Lithuanian exam.
The strikers are hoping that Russian minority schools will join the protest.
However, not all Polish schools believe that the action will bear fruit.
“The organizers think that perhaps they will be able to alarm the authorities,” commented Helena Gasperska, head of a Polish-Russian elementary school in Vilnius, in an interview with Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily.
“But I doubt that the authorities will be alarmed by such things,” she added.
Currently there are about 90 schools in Lithuania where Polish is taught. They cater to about 12,000 pupils. (nh)
Picture: Parents, pupils and teachers from Lithuania’s Polish minority schools gather at pilgrimage site Gate of Dawn in Vilnius. Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara