First Lady of Lithuania pays Newham a visit for group's 75th anniversary
- Credit: Dovilė Jurkienė
The First Lady of Lithuania flew across Europe to give a speech as part of an association's 75th anniversary celebrations.
During her visit, Diana Nausédiené (née Nepaité) gave a speech on the importance of bilingual education in schools at the Conference on Home Language Learning at Stratford Old Town Hall.
She was welcomed to the event by East Ham MP Stephen Timms and Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.
The conference was a key event during three days when the Lithuanian Association UK marked its milestone anniversary.
There were also concerts featuring performances of traditional Lithuanian songs, picnics, children’s sports events and Sunday Mass at a Lithuanian Church.
“We were really honoured by her visit and for her giving a speech, opening the conference, and showing support for the teachers and parents who came,” said the association chair, Alvija Cerniauskaite.
Held on May 28, the conference also featured Lithuania's vice minister of education, science and sports, Gintautas Jakštas; Professor Terry Lamb of the University of Westminster; Layal Husain of the University of East London; and secretary of Newham Partnership for Complementary Education, Martin Pinder.
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They spoke about the benefits of Lithuanian children retaining their native language and bilingual education for all youngsters.
“If the second language is the home language, it’s important to have the sense of identity of the family, and to have the feeling that they actually belong to a wider extent to the culture,” Alvija said.
Alvija also asked the First Lady to become a patron of the association, which was set up 75 years ago.
Today, there are 15 active branches and 55 Lithuanian schools involved.
It worked with the Newham Partnership for Complementary Education (NPCE) to host the three-day celebrations.
Martin said: “We wanted to celebrate the ethnic interest in languages and coaching because many Lithuanians still have schools and nurseries in this country.”
While Alvija admits it will be difficult to implement bilingual education for a variety of languages, she remains hopeful for the future.
“If we have more publicity from top leaders on the benefits of learning an additional language and the home language, and how it helps children and their families, it could impact the future.”