Uladzimir KOLAS: "We Will Work Despite Any Obstacles…"
As the "Right to Freedom" has already stated, from 1 September the authorities closed Yakub Kolas National humanitarian lyceum. The State officials had no reasonable reasons for such liquidation. In the formulation of the Soviet of Ministers of Belarus it was said: "To liquidate with the aim of optimization of the system of educational establishments." What they meant by this and what is the "optimization" as a sacrifice to which the only wholly Belarusian-language secondary educational establishment was closed is still quite obscure. Meanwhile, nobody pays any interests to the wishes of the children. They want only to learn, what they now have to do in the extreme conditions. Uladzimir KOLAS, the only director of the lyceum for all its existence, answers the questions of our correspondent about the conditions in which the lyceum continues working.
-- What is the state of the lyceum at present?
-- The lyceum continues working. The majority of the teachers and pupils on their free will decided to stay faithful to the lyceum. We have found the buildings where the education process can be set. Sure, there are not the conditions we had before, but at least we have shelter. The main is that we have saved the pedagogical collective and the pupils. However, we have neither juridical status, nor the financing. It means that our pupils will be taught individually. We will do everything to provide the lyceum pupils with the possibility to pass their exams, get the certificates of the secondary education and continue their studies at higher educational establishments.
-- Does Belarus have the juridical mechanism for it?
-- Yes, it does. It seems to me that the ruling about the possibility to sit one's exams as an external student. So, there's the possibility to teach children at home and then they will have to pass exams.
-- Do you think it will be possible to set fool-blooded education process for the children?
-- I can's speak of it, as, to my mind, the contemporary Belarusian education process can't be called fool-blooded, and I even have more compassion to the children who learn at pro-Soviet schools. I recollect myself as a pupil, the school where I learnt and by no means consider the education process of that time a normal one. Everything there was subordinated to a certain ideological system and pupils had no possibility for self-expression. Of course, the conditions in which our pupils have to learn now are not very comfortable, but it is neither our nor their fault.
-- Will they then have the possibility to receive the generally required education certificate?
-- Of course, there's an appropriate mechanism for it, but, you understand, there are no guarantees, as all normal juridical mechanisms in our country either don't work at all or work with many failures.
Earlier we used to work as a normal State educational establishment. You know that during numerous check-ups which were very biased, the controllers found no deficiencies in our work. By the way, we didn't do anything illegal: we worked as a simple educational establishment. Sometimes, as private individuals, we made critical remarks about the situation in the country, but this is a legal, natural right of all citizens. All citizens have no need to love President and his appearance. Other-mindedness does not at all mean that citizens must have troubles for it. Not everybody likes me, but I don't try to persecute them for it, fire, etc. It is not normal, and these problems are not ours, but of those ones who creates them.
-- The press informed that the lyceum would be registered as a private educational establishment. What are the steps in this direction?
-- This question is not as simple as it may seem. At present we have neither a building where we could register the lyceum, no finances for its purchase and maintenance. We are in the situation to which we weren't prepared. It is a natural disaster, a force-major for us.
However, as the lyceum closure has gained such a resonance and the position of the parents and their children concerning the future of the lyceum is expressed so radically, we doubtlessly have no right to leave them. If we are put in such conditions, we will earn money, look for a building and register. It can't made for one day, though…
We have already announced that the lyceum has an account, called in press the telephone numbers on which people could phone to the parents and offer their help. Many people phone there and offer different kinds of support. For instance, a war veteran, Head of a veteran organization, former Head of a university department in Hrodna, phoned and proposed to organize an action of solidarity in the lyceum to which professors and doctors of sciences from Hrodna would come and lecture the lyceum pupils on all subjects.
We, in our turn, proposed to visit them, as it will give the children the possibility to look at Hrodna sights and have classes.
A citizen of Staryia Darohi, Anatol Bely, phoned us and invited to his museum. We quite often receive such proposals. The lyceum is a point of honor not only for Belarusians, but all citizens of our country. In this critical situation we must save the educational establishment which is the symbol of presence of Belarusian spirit on this land. We are to follow the example of our neighbors, Poles, who also revived their education. Of course, we have a paradox situation, as we live and work, educate children on their native land in their mother tongue. Again, we are put in such conditions and have to seek for a way out.
-- What is the reaction of the officials to the fact that the lyceum teachers and pupils don’t give in and continue fighting?
-- You see the position of the authorities: they pay no interest to our problems and the problems of our children but simply wait till it will all disappear due to the lack of the State support. Pitifully enough, the hopes that the State officials have some conscience or at least a little decency, are dying out.
-- The State mass media have been giving a false light to the events around the lyceum. For instance, they said that the authorities offered you a job…
-- When were they objective at all? It is all rubbish, nobody offered me any job. The children were offered to learn in the forms where Belarusian language wasn’t taught even as a subject. The children who wanted to be taught in Belarusian language, and they, I should emphasize, constituted the overwhelming majority, had no choice. I have much respect for the children, especially the last-year pupils, who remained in the lyceum and agreed to take such a cross. They are real citizens who have something in their souls that doesn’t let them to deceit their principles, they are strong and mighty people. They have revealed such real traits quite early.
-- The position of children often is only the reflection of the parents’ position..’
-- Not always. There are children who return to us because they can’t go to ordinary schools, where their parents force them to. In some families one parent is for the child’s learning in the lyceum and the other is for ordinary school. That’s what happens to families. We should also forget that the authorities pressurize and blackmail parents, threaten and blandish parents. We haven’t conducted any agitation in our turn – we must simply go on working not to let down the parents in such situation. They value the lyceum, we understand it as an recognition of the importance of the work to which we devote our lives.
-- Has the pedagogical collective been saved?
-- Yes, the whole of it, though these are normal people, not exalted fighters. They are qualified professionals. Of course, they are concerned with the fate of their pupils and themselves, some of them are coming up to the retirement age, but there’s the notion of solidarity and the common case that we love and will continue despite anything, even without any sound and eminent words. It’s our life…