Speech of the Minister of Education, Prof. dr hab. Miroslaw Handke,
presented by Ms Urszula Grodzka

Opening session, Sunday 9 July 2000, 15.00 - 17.00

Dear participants of the conference,
Ladies and gentlemen,

About two years ago, the great friend of Polish visually impairment children, dr Herman Gresnigt, and the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment chose Poland as a partner to organise the European conference dedicated to the blind and partially sighted. We consider this a great honour and a challenge for us.

During the conference, we would like to show all the achievements in education of the history and chances of development of Polish schools and institutions for the blind and partially sighted.

The history of education of the visually impaired in Poland begins in 1872, when the first school for the blind was established. Nowadays, over 50 per cent of the partially sighted are educated in public integrated schools with sighted children; the rest attend classes at 14 public and 3 non-public special schools.

Ten years ago, some of the institutes introduced new ways of early intervention for the partially sighted, based on European experiences in this field. We are constantly improving the vocational system of education in order to prepare the visually impaired to work in attractive positions and protect them from unemployment.

Education of the blind and partially sighted is a part of the whole educational system in Poland, so it is being reorganized according to the introduced educational reform. Due to this reform, the system of education in Poland becomes more open and flexible, and its structure seems similar to the European systems.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am much obliged to you for inviting me to Cracow. Unfortunately, I have to express regret for my absence: a very important meeting of the Polish government has made me unable to attend your conference.

I would like to wish you fruitful debates in order to elaborate successfully "New Visions and Strategies for the New Century" and to help the blind and partially sighted find their own place in the world.

I hope that during the conference you will be able to visit our two thousand year old Cracow and its surroundings, so that you will gather not only knowledge but will be excited by our city as well. I would like to pay tribute to all the people and institutions for the hard work they have put in to organise this conference.

These are: the European Committee and Mr Herman Gresnigt, the Polish Host Committee and Mr Mieczyslaw Kozlowski, Mr President's Chancellery and the Polish Government, Cracow Metropolitan, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the parliamentarians and the Cracow authorities, the directors of the Bank of Regional Cooperation in Cracow, Rector of the Agriculture Academy in Cracow, the headmasters and teachers of schools for the blind and partially sighted, the managers of the National Museum, Cracow Philharmonic Hall and the Castle in Niepolomice.

My best regards

After this speech, Herman Gresnigt was offered the Golden Medal of the Ministry of Education by Ms Urszula Grodzka.

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