“I have not spoken it for nearly 35 years,” he answered. “Thanks for such this possibility”
“It is very pleasant to me. And what was 35 years ago?”
“I studied at school.”
“You studied well!”
“Yes, not bad. I always had 5 on the Belarusian language, because the teacher was very good.”
I did not question what he meant — the female beauty of the teacher or quality of her teaching. Obviously, both these factors ensured that the pupil mastered the language well.
Fir-tree grows in Mogilev
Perhaps school is the basic place where, if desired, it is possible to master the Belarusian language. There are many good examples where teachers foster in their pupils a love of the Belarusian tongue.
Today in Mogilev there is one class where Belarusian is taught. And one pupil, Yelochka Solovieva (in English, the name Yelochka means ‘fir-tree’) studies here. The Department of Education of the Leninsky District Executive Committee of Mogilev guarantees that the teaching of the girl will be organised properly.
Belarusian classes in the Mogilev Region also exist in Gorki. For example, in Osipovichi, there is a whole Belarusian gymnasium of more than six hundred children. All others Belarusian language educational institutions are in the villages.
What does it mean to study in the Belarusian language? — I ask the teacher who teaches children in a rural school. She explains, “Our textbooks are all in the Belarusian language, while we speak Trasianka (a mixed form of speech). There is an opinion that supposedly, children who finished schools with the Belarusian language teaching have difficulties studying at higher educational institutions, since Russian prevails there. Therefore, some villagers carry their children into Russian schools — into the cities. It happens also that new people move a village and are surprised. ‘You have a school with teaching in Belarusian?’ But, nevertheless, their child studies the Belarusian language and their parents are satisfied that children can study one more language. Children and their parents are not against the Belarusian language at all.
We honour our language, and study Chinese
On June 18th, 2002, gymnasium №23, with teaching in the Belarusian language was created at Minsk secondary school №23. It is located in the centre of the city. The building which it occupies was constructed before WWII. Therefore, the traditions of education are deep here.
The gymnasium collective contains 386 pupils and all subjects are taught in the Belarusian language. For the sake of this, children from the whole city go to the central Independence Avenue, where the educational institution is located. Children arrive even from the suburbs. 45 teachers provide the educational process. Irina Pasyukevich became a director of the gymnasium from August 1st, 2014.
Many may be envious of what the institution offers its pupils. The place is unique in Belarus, where pupils study Chinese and English in combination with subjects taught in the Belarusian language. The Chinese language is taught from the first form by native speakers, and by Belarusian-speaking teachers. Teachers go on training courses in Chinese universities.
Graduates of gymnasium №23 are proud of their knowledge of the Belarusian language, but do not use it often in every-day life. One graduate explains. “It seems to me that teaching in the Belarusian language is a plus. We know our native language better, but it is not connected with a future career in any way. Entering the Belarusian State University, young people pass the entrance examination in Russian.”
Facts and prospects
In the 2013-2014 academic year, the number of pupils in Belarusian-speaking schools dropped. Thus, only 15 percent of pupils are receiving education in Belarusian. Ten years ago, it was almost 25 percent. While in Minsk this indicator is 1.6 percent of pupils. Such data was given by the Chairman of Education Committee of the Minsk City Executive Committee, Mikhail Mironchik.
Today, five gymnasiums teaching in the Belarusian language are running in Minsk — №4, №9, №14, №23 and №28.
By Viktar Korbut
From our own experience
How to create a Belarusian-speaking group in a kindergarten
This year, Grodno kindergarten №45 opens the second Belarusian-speaking group for 12 children. Olga Valko, mother of three-year old Stasik, tells how it is possible to create a Belarusian-speaking group for a child if you want your child to live in a Belarusian-speaking environment “The main thing was to find parents who will agree to send their children into a Belarusian-speaking group. First of all, we started to discuss this with our acquaintances that have children of the same age. In the Vechernyi Grodno (Evening Grodno) newspaper there was an advert from the educational department about intake into the group. We also made our own flyers and pasted them up, placed them on the Internet and people started to respond quickly. People called me, and I directed them to where it was necessary to take their applications. It is necessary to say that not all children are from Belarusian-speaking families. There are parents who registered in our group as the kindergarten was located near their house. And secondly, the group is small, and it is very important for all mums. All parents want that it will be good for their children, therefore do our own repairs on walls and the ceiling. Probably, we also will buy furniture. We do it with our own money and for our own reasons. We have organised parents’ meeting, discussed everything and agreed how much money was needed, collected then the necessary sum, hired a brigade of workers and they do the repairs. Our kindergarten teacher is a student who studies at the Department of English Philology and in everyday life, she speaks Belarusian. She told us that she is happy to help. We went to the head of the kindergarten and our student was hired.”