A first: teachers from church-maintained schools protest untenable state of Hungarian education

November 08. 2022. – 06:41 PM


A first: teachers from church-maintained schools protest untenable state of Hungarian education
Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex


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Teachers from Hungarian schools owned and operated by churches organised a symbolic "Teachers' Graduation" for Tuesday afternoon in downtown Budapest. Their intention with this symbolic act was to draw attention to the untenable state of public education as a whole due to many teachers leaving the profession because of the increased burdens and extremely low wages. (Read our interview with one such teacher here.)

At the event, the graduating students were replaced by teachers who have already left their profession and have taken other jobs, as well as those who are staying the course for now. As they walked to St Stephen’s Basilica together, they were seen off by alumni and parents of their students.

According to the organisers, a family-friendly policy is not possible without a responsible education policy.

Each of the “graduating” teachers was presented with a flower and the customary satchel outside the basilica before they continued their walk. The satchel bears their first name, the subject they taught and the year they started their career.

In front of the basilica, they read out their statement in which they summarised their main demands in five points:

  • A new national education strategy
  • Child-friendly education
  • Autonomy
  • Attractive careers for teachers, with fair and just salaries
  • Respect for teachers

Noémi Tóth, who finished university and started working as a teacher two years ago was one of the speakers. She said that there is one topic that everyone can contribute to, as everyone has memories of good and bad teachers.

"I will always be grateful to my former Hungarian teacher. She moved abroad with her family last year and is now working as a cleaning lady somewhere. She has already graduated, and I am standing here for her."

- Tóth said.

She added that a teacher doesn't only teach, but also educates, comforts, praises and gives faith. When she chose teacher training, she did it because she wanted to work with children and give something back from the care she received. She has to work three jobs to make a decent salary that she can live on. She thanked God that she can still go on, and if the Lord keeps her in His grace, she will stay in this career.

Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex
Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex

One of the organisers announced that an online platform will be opened on Wednesday where those who wish, can show their support of the five points with their signatures and propose a sixth point. The organisers of the protest have pledged to contact the churches which own their institutions and ask for their help in getting their points across to the government.

The protest ended with the crowd praying together.

Although there have been many similar demonstrations and human chains recently, there has never been such a large-scale event organised by teachers from church-maintained schools. (In Hungary, educational institutions owned and operated by churches use the same curriculum and textbooks as public schools in Hungary. The teachers working in these institutions are paid based on the same pay scale as those employed by the state.)

An unsuccessful meeting

The protest was held a day after representatives of the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) and the Teachers' Trade Union (PSZ)were finally able to discuss their demands with Zoltán Maruzsa, the State Secretary for Public Education. The meeting, however, did not bring about any substantive results.

“There will be no pay raise this year, and there is no progress on any of our other strike demands either. We received a vague promise that the working hours of teaching assistants and special education assistants would be reduced to 40 hours a week.”

- Anna Komjáthy, head of the national executive of the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers said after the meeting.

Teachers of two Budapest schools announce upcoming week-long walkout

34 teachers at Karinthy Frigyes High School in Pestszentlőrinc and 26 teachers at the Brassó Utca Elementary School will begin a week-long walkout on 14 November, according to a statement from the teachers.

"Between 14 and 18 November, we are going on a one-week walkout – civil disobedience or strike – of varying duration," Beáta Berta, a teacher at Karinthy Frigyes High School wrote. She added that their intention is to express that they do not consider the reactions of the education administration to the weeks of nation-wide demonstrations as sufficient and adequate.

“Despite the many and varied ways in which we have expressed our concerns, no specific and acceptable steps have been taken, not even in terms of promises. We would like to draw attention to the fact that there is still no sign of willingness on the government's part to address the most pressing problems in education, and we feel it is our duty to speak out in this way to express the necessity for change.”

"We consider it our duty to demand that these problems be solved, because we do not want to and cannot work in a system where the voices of the most affected stakeholders (teachers-students-parents) are not heard. We do not want to remain silent and pretend for years, decades to come that the education system is functioning well! Silence does not equal order!"

- the teachers wrote.

One of the teachers' unions, PDSZ has previously announced that the next national strike day of teachers will be on 18 November.

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