Concerns about Latgalian language education in Latvia

For two years, schools in the eastern region of Latvia, Latgale, had the opportunity to receive additional funding from the Latvian State Forests(LVM) for elective Latgalian language classes. At the moment, this money is no longer available, so public employees are worried about the accessibility to the regional language, Latvian Radio reported on July 11.

Latvian Radio met Veronika Dundure, the Latvian language and literature teacher of Rēzekne Municipality Nautrēni High School. She is also the head of the Association of Teachers of Latgalian Language, Literature, and Cultural History.

In order to teach the Latgalian language in schools, the association has developed relevant training programs, including topics about the Latgale municipality. “Both geography, history, literature, ethnography, folklore, worksheets have also been developed, and a teaching guide has also been issued,” Dundure said.

The previous two years in Latgale schools had the support of LVM, as well as an Education and Science Ministry (IZM) project. In the previous year, 17 schools used this option, with a total of 233 pupils. “For the first time in Latvia's free state, you could learn the Latgalian writing language in the school as part of such a project,” said the teacher.

Currently, LVM funding for Latgalian learning is no longer available. The ministry's project has also been completed.

“A new school year will start in two months, and it is not clear to us whether the Latgalian language will be provided on an elective basis in Latgale schools,” Dainis Mjatrāns, member of the Latvian Council for the Development of Historic Lands, said.

"What I want to do is earmark funding for providing Latgalian language training from the Ministry of Education. And it doesn't matter if at any school they are three or 30 pupils who want to learn Latgalian writing, language. Just as we have an obligation to the state, the state must also comply with the law and the government must deliver on the promises made to the voters. For example, point 318 of the Cabinet declaration states that the government undertakes to promote the learning of the language of Latgalian writing. "

Mjatrāns says that, at present, IZM has not responded to whether funding will be provided for this purpose in the future. “There needs to be political will, and at the level of officials, there is also no real clarity as to why this issue cannot be raised to a level that will be resolved.”

“We calculated that it would take less than €67 thousand to teach one hour a week in 46 schools over the next school year,” added Dundure.

The senior expert of the Education Ministry, Mārtiņš Langrāts said that funding is already available from the money for elective education: “Local governments receive this public funding for elective education as one total amount, calculated according to the number of children in each particular municipality. The municipality then decides on which priorities are the most important for the municipality to invest in."

Guntars Skudra, head of the Education and Sports Authority of Rezekne municipality, said that the problem is not the availability of funding, but the low interest of the schools: “Because at the moment I will say that we have only a few schools in the municipality, I can count on one hand those who really promote and develop it. There could be a variety of reasons. The lesson plan is so congested that it is no longer possible to find room for such initiatives. Maybe human resources – a teacher who could work on this.”

In the opinion of the head of Skudra, the acquisition of the Latgalian language would be facilitated by the establishment of a system, which should be done by the Ministry:

It is also a matter of learning the language and culture of Livonians that is currently being raised. It should be noted that the Historical Latvian Lands Lae, adopted in 2021, aims to promote the learning of Latgalian and Livonian languages, including in educational establishments.

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