Orbán praises Hungarian teachers on day of nationwide strike – but fails to mention the strike

April 24. 2023. – 03:56 PM


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On Monday morning, around 50 protesting students, teachers and MPs gathered outside the entrance to the Ministry of Interior at Budapest’s Széchenyi Square, where they began a silent sit-in. The peaceful demonstrators protested against the proposed new “status law” affecting those working in education.

Photo: János Bődey / Telex
Photo: János Bődey / Telex

The Ministry of Interior had recently announced that they are working on an amendment to the education law, – nicknamed “the status law” because it will change the legal status of teachers. This news came after more than a year of protests, strikes and teachers’ civil disobedience throughout Hungary, demanding reforms in the entire education system. One of the main demands has been the reduction of the teachers’ workload, and an increase of their pay. We summarized all you need to know about the Hungarian protests for education reform in this article.

In spite of this, the draft of the new law indicates that in the future, teachers and school boards will only be able to share their opinion on matters affecting their schools, while the final decisions will be taken by the headmaster and the maintaining authority.

There would also be significant changes to the rules on teachers' working hours and workload. The total daily work hours may exceed 8 hours, but not more than 12 hours, and the weekly work hours may not be more than 48 – all of which is in sharp contrast with the demands presented by teachers, students and parents over the last several months.

In protest of the proposed new law, teachers working in public education and vocational training went on strike across Hungary on Monday. The joint walkout was, as on previous occasions, initiated by the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) and the Teachers' Trade Union (PSZ).

Meanwhile, on Monday morning, just a few hours after the sit-in in front of the Ministry of Interior, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke at the Festival of Vocational Excellence in Budapest, organized with the goal of making vocational education more attractive to the youth.

In his speech, Orbán said that "in Hungarian public life, it is common to disparage and criticize our schools and school system. Of course, it could be better and there is room for improvement", but it should not be underestimated.

"Our students’ success, both at home and internationally is also a tribute to Hungarian education, and special credit must be given to their teachers, who spare no time and effort to pave the way for their students", Orbán said.

He went on to say that "Hungary can only prosper if everyone here works, and works well", and added that it was hardly a coincidence that Jesus was a carpenter.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that, in his opinion, today, Hungarians no longer need to go to the West for work because "Western and Eastern companies are already present here, along with Hungarian businesses". Although it is good to have a look around the world, it is always worth coming home, because "this is where we have to prosper, only here does the future lie for Hungarians".

He then thanked "all the teachers, mentors and expert staff working in Hungarian vocational education for their sacrificial, dedicated work in recent years". Orbán failed to mention the strike and the protests in his short speech.

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