Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MfD: President's portraits may disappear from schools

6 February 2013

Prague, Feb 5 (CTK) - Czech schools are more and more reluctant to display the president's portrait in classrooms and they may replace it with the state emblem or a picture of humanist educator and philosopher Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), the daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes Tuesday.

The almost 150-year tradition of hanging the portraits of emperors and later presidents at state offices and schools dates back to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the part of which the Czech lands were until 1918. It survived under the communist regime and continued after its collapse in 1989, the daily recalls.

However, most of schools and town halls all over the country addressed by MfD say they will only take down the portrait of outgoing President Vaclav Klaus from the was and will not replace it with his successor Milos Zeman's on March 8 when Zeman is to be sworn in.

Besides, over 100 schools and state institutions removed Klaus's portraits at the beginning of the year in protest against the controversial amnesty Klaus declared in his New Year's address.

Jiri Sochor, head of the elementary school in Chabarov, north Bohemia, said they would replace the president's photograph with the state coat of arms after Klaus's term expired.

"Everybody knows from TV how the president looks like. However, children have almost no idea of how the state emblem looks like," he explained.

His colleague Emil Zatopek, director of an elementary school in Zlin, south Moravia, said he would rather prefer a portrait of Comenius (1592-1670), father of modern education, which would not have to be changed after every five years with the presidential election.

In other schools they do not wish the new president's portrait simply because they supported Zeman's rival candidate, Foreign Minister and TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg, MfD says.

The paper recalls that there is no law ordering to display the president's portrait at official places.

"It is only an expression of the tradition and respect for the head of state. No law or directive deals with it," Patrik Kubas, from the Education Ministry's press section, told the paper.

The situation is not likely to change after Zeman assumes office either.

"I would let the decision up to every school," Social Democrat (CSSD) shadow education minister Marcel Chladek told the paper.

It writes that it was rather difficult to find an institution that would display Zeman's portrait.

One of the few exceptions is a grammar school in Plasy, west Bohemia.

"I respect the supreme constitutional official and I consider it a nice tradition," its director Marketa Lorenzova said.

An elementary school in Prague focused on art education has modified the tradition in an original way. Its pupils made pictures of significant Czech kings and presidents and they are now decorating the walls of classrooms. Zeman would appear there only if a child decided to make his picture, MfD says.

Nevertheless, schools will not save a lot if they decide not to acquire the new president's portrait as a glassed and framed photograph costs some 500 crowns and they would need some 20 pictures on average each. Moreover, most of them could only replace Klaus's photo with Zeman's in the old frame, while a photograph would cost merely some 30 crowns, MfD writes.

It recalls that the same dilemma to have the president's portrait at schools and offices or not emerged ten years ago when Klaus was elected for the first time. Some schools then also refused to respect this tradition but not as massively as now.

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