INTRODUCTION: Basque nationalism in Spain is usually associated with protest demonstrations and clashes with the police.
INTRODUCTION: Basque nationalism in Spain is usually associated with protest demonstrations and clashes with the police. Four people -- three Basques and a Civil Guard -- have died in such clashes in the past week. But it has a peaceful and constructive side too: the desire of parents in the four Basque provinces of northern Spain to have their children educated in accordance with Basque traditions.
SYNOPSIS: In a village school in Lejona, near Bilbao, the youngest children are learning the Basque language and traditional Basque songs. There are more than two million people who consider themselves to be Basques; but well under half of them speak the language as their mother tongue.
In General Franco's time in Spain, it would have been illegal to fly the Basque flag. Now it is tolerated; so are radio programmes in the Basque language -- and Basque teaching in schools.
But the state does not go so far as to provide it. The schools which teach in Basque are financed almost entirely by the children's parents. The nationalist movement has organised them into co-operatives for the purpose.
A geography lesson for nine-year-olds. By this time, they are taught entirely in the Basque language. It is probably the oldest language in Europe, and quite unrelated to any other; it does not belong to the Indo-European family of languages. It is believed to have been brought to northern Spain by immigrants from Asia Minor (which is now Turkey), two thousand years before Christ.
The children are being brought up in a highly-charged nationalist atmosphere. Basque separatists want freedom from the central control of Madrid, and some of them have been ready to die for it. Some quite young children have themselves taken part in political demonstrations.
The Lauro school is regarded as the best in the area. It has room for more than a thousand pupils, and takes them right through to university standard. To get a university place, or a job outside the region, the young people will need fluency in Spanish. But for reasons of national sentiment, their parents want to make sure that they are well grounded in Basque.