[lg policy] Ukraine: Concerned citizens protesting irrational language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 25 16:17:49 UTC 2010

Concerned citizens protesting irrational language policy

  By Yulia LYTVYN, The Day

Volunteers of the All-Ukrainian Civic Organization Ne bud baiduzhym!
(Don’t Be Indif­ferent!) brought pumpkins to the gate of the
Constitutional Court of Uk­raine [by an old Ukrainian tra­di­tion, if
a young woman did not want to marry a man, she would give him a
pumpkin, thus disgracing him in the eyes of the village com­mu­nity —
Ed.] after the CCU re­cog­nized as un­con­stitutional a decision of
the Ca­binet of Ministers of Uk­raine whereby schoolteachers had to
use Uk­rainian during classes and breaks. Says Ne bud baiduzhym’s
director Oksana Levkovych: “Getting the Cabinet to adopt this
resolution last year was easier said than done. This document reflects
the schoolchildren’s concern that their mother tongue is being taught
formally. We all know that our schoolteachers habitually keep
switching from Uk­rai­nian to Russian and teaching the language under
such condition is virtually impossible, and so we came up with the
initiative that ended in the Cabinet’s Resolution ‘On Changes to the
Regulations on the General Educational Establishment’ (I mean the
clause concerning the language to be used by the teaching staff during
working hours).”

In response, 52 members of parliament signed a no confidence statement
and turned to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, claiming this
Cabinet resolution restricts the rights of schoolteachers, students,
and their parents.

“We’re convinced that the CCU should have dismissed this complaint;
there was sufficient ground to do just that. Our civic organization
regards this CCU ruling as ungrounded and biased,” says NBB’s lawyer
Yurii Fartushny.


Halyna TELNIUK, singer:

“It is amazing to see politicians oppose the adequate way in which our
children could master Ukrainian. At the school where my son studies,
all teachers speak Russian during recesses as a matter of course.
There is, however, a big difference between a bazaar vendor selling
socks and teaching history in school. We keep hearing that there are
more and more Ukrainian songs, books, and commercials, still, we see
no positive trends. We’re constantly in a state of struggle that has
turned into a war. We lost it 18 years ago when we let east and south
[of Uk­raine] have their way. We have wasted time; these reforms
should’ve been carried out earlier, then we’d now have a society where
people would be speaking literary Ukrainian. We have lost several
generations with our politicians curtsying before each other debating
whether or not we needed Ukrainian. My sister and I are Kyivans and we
have always been ostracized for speaking Ukrainian, starting at seven
when boys and girls in the yard ridiculed and insulted us for using
the language.”

Lesia VORONINA, writer:

“The way those MPs and the judges reacted to an attempt to institute
Ukrainian in school during classes and breaks is totally absurd. When
we hear about the alleged discrimination against the Russian language
and breaches of the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens, we
know that all this is blatant cynical falsehood. If our education
continues to be based on this constant lingual dualism (something like
language schizophrenia), our children will end up having no idea about
literary Ukrainian and Uk­rai­nian literature, for everything
Uk­rai­nian will be treated as inferior and unnecessary, while the
Russian language and literature will be predominant. I have my doubts
about the intellectual level of all those who make and then cancel
decisions on the status of Ukrainian. I think that these people have
never read books written by talented Ukrainian authors. Perhaps I’m
being idealistic, but I am convinced that a child who reads good books
cannot grow up as a mean individual. We all know the horrible
condition of book publishing in Ukraine, especially children’s books
and periodicals. We have politicians who don’t know why we need
literature. If these people determine the destiny of the Ukrainian
language and literature in general, the prospects are bleak.”

P.S.: President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine adopted the Concept of
the National Language Policy that, among other things, envisages the
development of a network of preschool educational establishments,
general educational schools, and institutions of higher learning with
instruction in Ukrainian, along with upgrading schooling and
procedural support; measures aimed at expanding the usage of Ukrainian
in the media and in the spheres of culture, education, and science.

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