Names of public education institutions must be legal and generally accepted

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has submitted to the 44th Government and the Ministry of Education, Science and Innovation the Initiative to repeal the Decision on the establishment of the Public Preschool Institution “Mother Teresa” in Tuzi, specifically regarding the naming of the institution because it was assigned illegally, i.e. the procedures prescribed by the Law on Memorials, the Law on Local Self-Government and the General Law on Education were violated, as well as the Constitution that defines Montenegro as a secular state.

The previous name “Children’s joy” reflects what is common to all parents – the well-being of children, without dividing them along any line. This stands in contrast to the naming based on canonized personality within a religious community, considering that Tuzi a multiethnic and multicultural environment. Emphasizing specific canonized figures on public institutions as memorial monuments, such as the name of Mother Teresa, which is already carries by a private preschool institution affiliated with the Catholic Church in Tuzi, is not advisable in terms of respecting interpersonal relations, human rights in environments of diverse cultures, and the principle of interculturality. CCE emphasizes that the values and contribution made by Mother Teresa are indisputable and that this Initiative in no way calls that into question, but rather protects her legacy by placing her beyond any local divisive influences.

CCE recalls that the former educational unit “ Children’s joy ” in Tuzi was part of the Public Preschool Institution “Đina Vrbica”. The then-President of Tuzi Municipality, Nik Đeljošaj, with the consent of the Tuzi Local Self-Government Secretariat, and bypassing prior discussion and decision-making in the Assembly of Tuzi Municipality, submitted to the competent Ministry of Education, as the founder of this kindergarten, a proposal for the independence of this kindergarten and its renaming. The Ministry of Education sought the opinion of the Ministry of Culture and Media, responsible for naming memorials, on the proposed name change. The Ministry of Culture and Media noted that the President of the Municipality of Tuzi did not comply with the procedure prescribed by the Law on Memorials, and that the proposed change will be considered only in the prescribed legal procedure, noting that this should be preceded by an adequate act of the Municipality of Tuzi and restarting the procedure. However, the Ministry of Education acted contrary to the response of the Ministry of Culture and Media, prepared the Decision, and sent it to the Government for adoption. Consequently, the Government adopted the controversial Decision at its session on 6 October 2022, and the day after its publication in the “Official Gazette of Montenegro”, on 20 October 2022, the educational unit becomes an independent public preschool institution with a new name – ” Mother Teresa “.

In addition to the obvious legal shortcomings, the CCE disputes this Decision in the part of the name of the institution because it was not brought by consensus of all subjects, nor does it express respect for the multiculturalism of children, parents, employees, but also the citizens of Tuzi. Given that it is a public institution financed by the money of all citizens, and for whose name change the representatives of the Catholic Church and the Islamic community also expressed their disagreement, emphasizing their reverence for Mother Teresa and her work, we believe that this Decision of the Government of Montenegro should be annulled as illegal and illegitimate, and the institution should revert to its previous name.

CCE maintains the principled position that the educational system must be protected from all forms of religious influence, and in this context, we express the hope that this Initiative will urgently be discussed at the Government session, with the expectation that all stakeholders will address this issue in an objective manner.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor