On 19th December, 2013, at a meeting of the local government of the Trakai district, with votes 14 to 25 of a ruling coalition, the Secondary School in Trakai was deprived of the right to accreditation. The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR), considering the decision to be unjustified and incompatible with the law, became involved in the case and provided the school authorities with free legal assistance.
EFHR notes that, along with the decision of the local government of the Trakai district No. SP – 331, the right of accession to the accreditation of secondary education programmes for 2014 had been granted to the following schools: the Secondary School in Aukštadvaris, H. Sienkevičiaus school in Lentvaris, D. Malinausko in Onuškės, and Madeinos in Poluknie. („Trakų rajono savivaldybės tarybos 2013 m. gruodžio 19 d. sprendimas Nr. S1-331 „Dėl Trakų rajono Aukštadvario, Lentvario Henriko Senkevičiaus, Onuškio Donato Malinausko ir Paluknio „Medeinos“ vidurinių mokyklų vidurinio ugdymo programų akreditacijos“)
The Secondary School in Trakai was absent among the list of these schools, although the group of members of the council had submitted the proposal, in which the right to accreditation for this school had also been proposed. In response to a request from the school’s headmaster to explain its decision, the Council refused to provide any reasons for the decision, having only provided information about not supporting the decision and rejecting the alternative proposal. It should be noted that, in the general reorganization plan, the Council has yet to provide for the internal structural transformation of the schools of the Trakai district. It has provided that the school in Trakai is going to proceed to the programme accreditation and if the programme is accredited, the school obtains the status of junior high school.
On 20th January, 2014, the Secondary School in Trakai made a complaint regarding the unjustified decision to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court (Vilniaus apygardos administracinis teismas). The complaint stated, among other things, that the support for the accession to the accreditation had not been granted justifiably, it also solicited for the obligation put on the local government of the Trakai district to reconsider the question of accession to school curriculum accreditation and provide reasons for that decision.
The school also highlighted that one of the points of criteria for being granted accreditation is having the status of the only school teaching the language of a national minority in the city, as well as meeting the requirement of having a minimum number of students in class 11. It is worth noting that, according to official data, the school annually runs class 11 with 16-24 persons, which is completed every year with 3 to 10 students from A. Stelmachowski Primary School in Old Trakai. The school, therefore, meets the accreditation criteria, requiring filling class 11 with at least 15 students. Disregarding this fact, the Council of the local government deprived the Secondary School in Trakai of the right to accreditation.
Also worth-mentioning is the fact that depriving the school of the right to accreditation means that, from the 1st September 2014, the school is going to be deprived of the right to continue class 11 and this means, in turn, that within a few years there will be no institution in Trakai where you can get a secondary school education in the Polish language. If the accreditation is not awarded, the changes to the internal structure will be made, and the school will be reorganized into a branch of H. Sienkiewicz junior high school in Lentvaris. What is worth noting is the fact that the Ministry of Education and Science, which the school asked for help in clarifying the situation, in a letter dated 5th February, 2014, acknowledged that the school met the requirements of accession to the accreditation. In the same application the Ministry asked the Council for the motivation behind its decision, providing information about the reasons the school had been deprived of the right to accreditation.
In the meantime, the Council of the local government of the Trakai district prepared the proposal for altering the internal structure of the Secondary School in Trakai and the school in Poluknis. In the proposal, there was information about transforming the internal structure of the school and discontinuing the implementation of the secondary school education programme from the 1st September 2014. It was also decided not to organize the continuation of students to class 11. This means that the Council of the local government is planning to implement their proposal of depriving Trakai of having a school which provides secondary education in Polish.
EFHR believes that this is another example which proves that, despite adequate and applicable law, and because of political reasons, unlawful decisions which are worsening the situation of the Polish minority are still being adopted. The Council not only does not execute the approved general plan of the reorganization and transformation of the internal structure of schools, but also, in a way inconsistent with the law, wants to reorganize a school that in fact meets all the requirements necessary to be granted accreditation.
Translated by: Roksana Kasperek