Polish School opened in Waterford
By Iwa & Krzysiek Wisniewscy
As of next week Polish children living in the Waterford region will have more duties. Part of each weekend they will spend in the Polish school, which was officially opened on October 14, the Polish Day of Education. All lessons will take place in the St. Paul’s Community College in Waterford.
The demand for Polish school in the region was huge, which was confirmed when over one hundred kids were enrolled to the school long before it was opened. During the Sunday’s opening there were additional few dozens that joined in. Majority of the kids are between 7-12 years of age, but there are enough older ones to create classes at all levels. Age of children in the Polish school will range from 7 to 18 years old.
Parents really want their children to learn Polish language, history and geography. These are the subjects that will be taught in the Polish school. The youngest immigrants integrate with their Irish peers very quickly, but it frequently results in cessation of using Polish, their native language. They will never learn Polish history in Irish schools, while it is very important to know where they come from, even if they live over two thousands kilometres from their home country. Parents are also delighted that the school reports issued by the Polish school will be respected in Poland. Many families plan to come back to Poland in few years’ time and such reports, valid only as addition to the school reports from Irish schools, will make further education easier for returning emigrants.
The Polish school in Waterford, one of five opened so far in Ireland, is also the way to make life easier for many. It is the case for Grzegorz Ziolkowski, father of 8-years-old Maciek. „I am very, very delighted. For last three weeks I was travelling with my son and few other children to the Polish school in Dublin, while we live in Kilkenny. Maciek had to get up at 5.30am and he was back home no sooner than 5pm. The information about foundation of the Polish school so close made us very happy.”
But what children think about it? Not all of them are joyful that they will have to dedicate additional day for learning, but they are eager to meet new kids, peers from Poland. 14-years-old Igor Frey-Kulakowski said: „Am I happy? Frankly speaking, not really. I have a lot of work in my Irish school. I think that I will benefit in the Polish one, but frankly, it was my mum’s idea.” On the other hand, 18-years-old Agnieszka Melcer was really delighted. Not only she will have a chance to pass the Polish equivalent of the Leaving Certificate, but also „meet many girls and boys of the same age, as Polish teenagers are different than Irish ones, and sometimes it’s hard to make really good friends with the latter.”
The opening of the Polish school took place after the Holy Mass in the St. John’s church. Kids and parents went to the St. Paul’s Community College, where they were welcomed by principals of the Irish and Polish schools – Anthony Condron and Witold Izycki, respectively – as well as representatives of the Polish authorities – Zbigniew Ciosek from the Prime Minister’s Chancellery and Ewa Sadowska from the consular department of the Polish Embassy in Dublin.
Zbigniew Ciosek in the welcoming speech addressed the Irish hosts in this way: “I would like to thank you on behalf of the Polish government for your hospitality and your support for the Polish community. I believe that the Polish school in Waterford will develop strong and friendly relationship between Polish and Irish communities.”
That belief has strong foundations as the Polish school is here to bring both communities closer. In the future it may become the place where Polish-Irish initiatives take place, when Polish children start inviting their Irish friends to various events. The beginning was really successful and the principal of the St. Paul’s Community College, Anthony Condron, summarised: „I am delighted and pleased to have this school here. The Irish emigrated all over the world and I would like something like that to happen to Irish emigrants. And Polish are lovely community and lovely people.”
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