While Latvia’s guardians of virtue have been busy with a scandal revolving around a couple of bad words in a piece of poetry written by Agnese Krivade, a different example of immoral behaviour in Latvia went by unnoticed – criminally accused Aivars Lembergs gave a presentation to 3rd grade schoolchildren of Marupe Secondary School about the profession of a chairman of a city council.
Throughout 12-16 October Latvian education institutions were holding a special event – Career Week. During this special week, youngsters were able to attend lectures to help them plan their future and meet with representatives of different professions. More than 4,000 events were attended by nearly 120,000 youngsters. What is especially curious in all this is that 3rd graders in Marupe Secondary School were presented a lecture not by Martins Bojars, Chairman of Marupe Council, but someone from far away, namely Aivars Lembergs, who is not only accused of committing serious crimes but is also legally prohibited from performing the duties as Mayor of Ventspils.
Was there even a choice?
Deputy Chairperson of Marupe Council and Chairperson of Social, Education, Culture and Sports Matters Committee Liga Kadige told BNN in an interview that it is hard for her to answer the question as to how ethical it was to allow Lembergs’ presentation in the first place. However, she did say that ‘there will be a talk with the Director of Marupe Secondary School about this.’
State Education Quality Service told BNN that the Director of Marupe Secondary School was contacted on 23 October. Representatives of IKVD had discussed with the director the necessity to carefully assess the reputation of people invited to presentations hosted by the school, effectiveness of meetings, their compliance with the school’s education programmes, goals set by the school and the age of students attending such presentations.
Janis Lagzdkalns, Director of Marupe Secondary School, had previously told Latvijas Radio that Lembergs was chosen as a guest for one of the events of the Career Week and that he agreed to come because he knows some of the parents of children studying in that school. State Education Development Agency has informed BNN that the Career Week is traditionally organized with cooperation from managements of Latvian cities, regional councils and education institutions. This year’s Career Week concluded on 16 October. Lembergs’ visit to Marupe Secondary School took place on 23 October following the initiative of the school. Although the school’s director denies that the school was basically forced by the municipal government, the head of which – Bojars – represents Lembergs’ cooperation partners Latvian Farmers Union, and adds that Lembergs responded to an invitation from the teacher of the 3rd grade, one of the unofficial versions, according to Latvijas Radio, states that the school never had a choice.
Where is the ethic?
IKVD told BNN that whenever people are invited for lectures to schools, the director, parents and other teachers have to carefully discuss the positives and negatives of such visits, their compliance with the school’s education programmes, goals and age of students participating. «The school’s director is also responsible in making sure meetings like that do not breach regulations. Administration and/or teachers have to take part in events to make sure everything is in order,» – explains IKVD.
Although Education Quality State Service states that by inviting Lembergs for a lecture the school’s administration did not breach any regulations, Marupe Secondary School’s teacher Aleksandr Vorobyev expresses certain doubts about ethics and purpose of that lecture. He believes it would have been best if the school had invited the Chairman of Marupe Council, «which would have been more logical».
Marketing at the expense of teaching hours
Lembergs had a video crew with him during his visit to the school. The event was also broadcasted by Ventspils Municipality’s portal. Lembergs told children about the qualities a Mayor should have (lots of study, good reading and writing skills, keeping promises, properly dressing, etc.). However, the majority of Lembergs’ lecture consisted of a tour of Ventspils – basically an advertisement for the city. This is confirmed by deputy director of Marupe Secondary School Sanita Zveja, who was present at the lecture, as reported by lsm.lv.
After the lecture, Lembergs said he was invited by a mother of a 3rd-grader whose mother apparently works at Ventspils City Council. Lembergs was not completely honest with children – he said nothing of the security measure imposed on him as part of a criminal case, in which he stands accused of serious crimes, or that he is legally prohibited from performing duties as Mayor of Ventspils. According to Lembergs, none of that is relevant. When asked about the aforementioned security measure, Lembergs said «a chairman of a council has no duties, politicians have no duties». He added that the legal restriction is only a formality. «A politician realizes himself in the way he find necessary; he has a duty to serve the people – that is something that cannot be cancelled,» – said Lembergs.