Poles in Belarus call leader to end discrimination

Over the past three years “several dozen” Polish children were deprived of the right to obtain education in their mother tongue. Photo: twitter.com/@Angelika Borys.

The Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) called the Belarusian president Alexandr Lukashenko to “stop discrimination of Polish children” and “put an end to harassment of Polish language teachers.”

The statement comes as a response to increasing discrimination of Polish children during school admissions in the Western Belarusian towns of Grodno and Vawkavysk, and the widening reported harassment of Polish language teachers by the education authorities in the region of Grodno.

The statement opens with an observation that since 2015 Grodno region’s education authorities have been intentionally limiting the number of children admitted to Polish schools in Grodno and Vawkavysk.

As a consequence of such policies, over the past three years “several dozen” Polish children were deprived of the right to obtain education in their mother tongue, as is ensured by the Belarusian constitution.

The community’s protests earlier this year resulted in Grodno Polish school’s authorities admitting of all Polish children who applied to study there. The situation, however, is thoroughly different in a school in Vawkavysk, which admitted only 18 out of the 25 children who applied to study at the local school (with Polish language).

The remaining seven children were turned away on the pretext of limitations imposed by the board of trustees. The local community said this situation is “a glaring example of the discrimination against young Poles.”

According to Kresy24.pl journalist interviewed by Poland in English, Polish schools in Belarus were threatened with being taught classes in either Russian or Belarusian, instead of their native Polish.

Making it hard for Polish teachers

The petition by ZPB also noted that administrations of the schools which include Polish-language classes, hamper Polish language teachers’ participation in workshops and other undertakings aimed to improve their professional qualifications – especially when these are carried out in Poland.

According to the latest Belarusian population census, there are 294,549 Poles living in Belarus, of whom 21.52 percent are Grodno region residents. For most part, they are descendants to Polish nationals who lived on the territory before WWII.