Twenty thousand protest Orbán’s education policies in Budapest

More than twenty thousand teachers, school administrators, students, parents and union activists took to the very rainy streets of Budapest on Saturday morning, and marched together from Jászai Mari tér, near Budapest’s Margaret Bridge, to Parliament. The mass demonstration is the largest since the series of so-called “internet protests” in 2014, when tens of thousands marched in opposition to the Orbán regime’s plans for an internet tax.

Twenty thousand protests in Kossuth square on February 13th, 2016. Photo: Tamás Kovács/MTI.

Twenty thousand protests in Kossuth square on February 13th, 2016. Photo: Tamás Kovács/MTI.

Hungary’s government would like to have you believe that today’s mass protest was about wages in the education sector and demands for an increase by teachers and school administrations. By claiming that this protest is just like any other demonstration by teachers seeking higher wages, the Orbán regime aims to “normalize” the situation in Hungary.

This narrative, however, cannot be further from the truth. The over 20,000 protesters in Kossuth Square on Saturday morning took to the streets because of the overarching centralization and authoritarianism, the one-size-fits-all approach to learning in Hungary, since Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party returned to power in 2010. The government’s policy reduces social mobility, discourages children of economically disadvantaged backgrounds from obtaining an education, treats all students as unthinking automatons, allows for no creativity or critical thinking and sees teachers as workers on an assembly line, without any autonomy.

Twenty thousand demonstrate in Budapest on February 13th, 2016, with many drawing attention to systemic corruption under the Orbán regime. Photo: János Marjai.

Twenty thousand demonstrate in Budapest on February 13th, 2016, with many drawing attention to systemic corruption under the Orbán regime. Photo: János Marjai.

The two large national teachers’ unions both participated in the protest, namely the Union of Teachers (PSZ) and the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ). This cooperation is positive news, considering that the two unions were at odds about whether they should be willing to engage in dialogue with the Orbán regime. The PSZ, for instance, refused to attend round table negotiations with the regime, while PDSZ leader László Mendrey decided to participate. Mr. Mendrey conceded on Saturday at the demonstration that it was a mistake to enter into dialogue with the government.

“Mr. Orbán is the grand master of preserving his political power. He manages to systematically divide everyone,” said Mr. Mendrey, alluding to earlier divisions between the two unions. “Viktor Orbán and his friends are living in Canaan, and this is why he has to preserve the current educational system,” added Mr. Mendrey.

The leader of the other key union, PSZ, which struck a less conciliatory tone when dealing with the Orbán regime as of late, and refused to participate in any discussions, had some sharp words for the regime.

“The government’s great reform brought about a system that stripped students of the joy of learning and stripped teachers of the joy of teaching. The regime is consciously throwing into poverty an entire new generation. Our patience has run dry. We are here, so as to declare together, that enough is enough. We won’t stand idly by,” declared Mrs. István Galló, chief of the PSZ union.

PSZ union leader Mrs. István Galló at Saturday's protest in Budapest. Photo: János Marjai/MTI.

PSZ union leader Mrs. István Galló at Saturday’s protest in Budapest. Photo: János Marjai/MTI.

The protest also included speeches from students and school administrators. The principal of the Teleki Blanka High School in Budapest, István Pukli, noted that the regime is “not accustomed to people saying ‘no'” and added that the government had now entered into its most stubborn phase. Mr. Pukli demanded that the regime spend 6% of Hungary’s GDP on education, in order to address the damage that they have done over the past six years.

The most radical group involved in the protests is called the Network of the Uninvited. Activists affiliated with this group distributed thousands of flyers on Saturday declaring that there “is no longer any reason to engage in dialogue with government on any issue.” The Network calls upon Hungarians, in all fields and in all regions, to reject all dialogue with the government and its officials, and instead engage in systematic forms of civil disobedience across the country. The Network described Mr. Orbán, his ministers and leading civil servants as “barbarians.”

A small group of Hungarian-Canadians also expressed their solidarity with the protesters. On Friday, Montreal-based teacher Judit Pandur, who volunteers at the local Hungarian-language Saturday school, published an open letter, signed by 15 Hungarian Canadians involved in education, to speak up against the Orbán regime’s attempts to build a semi-feudal state in Hungary.

Meanwhile, the Orbán regime’s officials tried to downplay the protest. The newly minted state secretary in charge of education, László Palkovics, claimed that the protest “was no longer relevant,” because the government recognizes that there are concerns and officials are willing to engage in dialogue with all parties, within the context of the on-going round table on education policy. There are now also “leaks” that Mr. Orbán is willing to dismantle the much-hated Klebelsberg Institute Maintenance Centre (KLIK), which oversees all public schools in Hungary, but no earlier than in 2018.

Fortunately, a growing number of Hungarians are realizing that dialogue with the Hungarian government is counterproductive.

One of the most powerful moments of the protest was when the 20,000 demonstrators in Kossuth Square held a five-minute long period of complete silence. Virtually nobody moved and almost complete silence enveloped the crowded public square. The regime’s problems will really begin if one day the tens of thousands of protests come out to Kossuth Square and simply refuse to go home.

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29 Comments

  1. Charlie London says:

    The problem is that Orban’s Commocracy can’t unravel KLIK.

    Zoltan Balog doesn’t have the intellect or empowerment to do it.

    Many cynical people believe it was centralised so ‘corruption’ dividends could be maximised – as was Health administration.

    Even if the will was there it will take a decade at least.

    And when you look at the crowd do you see Fidesz and Jobbik in protest? Yes. I do.

    Orban sees ‘Budapest troublemakers’ and ‘only a few protesters’

    “It’ll all blow over in the morning.”

    • Charlie London says:

      “PSZ union leader Mrs. István Galló at Saturday’s protest in Budapest.”

      ‘Mrs Isván Galló’?

      I have problems when so-called intelligent female women leaders take their husband’s name.

      They hardly reflect the Zeitgeist modern leader ready to lead reform in a culture that requires drastic change.

      Stop this ultra-conservative ‘men’s chattel’ attitude and get in the real world.

      ‘Mrs Isván Galló’ indeed.

      With ‘leaders’ like this there’s no hope.

  2. Pierre Divenyi says:

    A good beginning. Demonstrations do work, next time the weather will be more encouraging and there may be 100,000 marching to, or preferably into, the prime minister’s administrative building.

  3. How long can they do it, carry on, I mean the demonstrations. A few weeks of it will not be enough to make serious achievements. Who organizes, who finances it? Anyway, my guessing is that it won’t be as easy for Orban to step aside as easy it was for the Internet tax protest.
    Would Orban wait until they are running out of their reserves, both human power and finance, or he wants to cut it short?

    • Now you’re talking. Calm and easy.
      You see, you can make it..

      • Observer,

        why don’t you mind your own stupid comments instead of bothering other posters at time when you have nothing to say.

        What an ugly rotten pest you are. Go, eat your food stamps. And as I said try to make sense and discuss the topic you notorious idiot.

      • How ungrateful !
        How unfair after my appreciation of his good thoughts.
        He broke my heart.

        • Observer,

          no that post of yours was not appreciation, that was a patronizing, malicious, sarcastic arrogant personal remark that my comment didn’t provoke and didn’t deserve.

          In reply you got what you deserve for interrupting the line of the factual comments and the discussion on a very important topic, and your present frustrated idiotic post that you think was very witty and humorous to ease the situation you have created just made everything worse.

          You’re a cheap, arrogant clown, your very own parody and I gave you what you asked for. Eat it yummy yummy.

          You acted I reacted.

  4. Christopher,

    Where did you see the 20 000 figure ?

    What I saw: the square was packed, incl. 30-40 m into Alkotmány u., empty north side behind the Kosuth monument, and the south side between tram rails to building was sparse.
    My conservative estimate is 60 000 (variations on 22 – 24 k sqm x 2.5 or 3 p/sqm). Dont’forget that when Fidesz packs this square it contains 500 k to a million.

    It was great.

    Next a national teachers strike, with (a lot of) luck – a national general one.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Observer,

      ATV used “more than 20,000” as its estimate, in its report. It is entirely possible that it far exceeded 20,000. A general strike would be a great way for this to gather steam.

    • Update: I wrote that on the south side between tram rails and building it was sparse (11.15h), but I found a photo where this part was also packed to the Danube side banister.
      So my latest conservative estimate is 62 000 (play with 24 – 26 k sqm x 2.5 or 3 p/sqm).

  5. Pingback: Protesters slam Hungary’s ‘shameful’ education policy - News aggregator

  6. Observer,

    hi buddy. I see unrest is upon you and you don’t know what to do with your overflowing IQ .

    Please get back to the topic and give us, if you can, some explanation about the relation between the Orban government corrupt management and the planned dismantling of the Klebelsberg Institute Maintenance Centre. Could you please help us with your superior mind and explain us the financial interest of the government in the controlled demolition of the education system. Please give us palpable meaningful info, I see in your other comments you love figures.

    You bragged with your political qualification and “I have been observing or been a bit in politics for 40 years” you said, so it probably will not be difficult for you to make sense and instead of fixing other posters and playing totally useless and stupid guessing games about whether a few thousand more protesters were present and whether the Danube side banister was “24 – 26 k sqm x 2.5 or 3 p/sqm” you might be able explain and evaluate the situation in depth, i.e. to make sense.

    No rush buddy, give your IQ a free flow, and speak about the topic instead of criticizing others. Your a perfect nagware. Go make sense.

    • Charlie London says:

      Ignore, ignore, ignore, Observer!

      • Right.
        But I also love a good joke, an original punch line.
        What the hack.. we are not all made equal.

      • Hello Mr. Copy-paste,

        I am so glad your medical treatment is successful, congratulation. I see you can write words, even if just idiotically repeating them, but don’t worry, soon or later you will be able to make full sentences.

        Anyway, even your present belch is a big step ahead considering your previous mental retching on the
        “Of droids and slaves – Media in the Orbán regime” board.

        Charlie London
        on February 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      • @Charlie London

        You foresaw the Prolixity cum corrections right and it looks more like pills.

        And … ha, ha, haaaah … I checked out Ben Fulford and David Icke.. OMG, haa.. haa..
        What nitwits peddling crackpot theories!
        Similar sites bounce them around until they become “the reality”.
        Oh God, is this homo sapiens ?

        • Unobservant Observer and Mr. Copy-paste alias Plagiarizer Charlie,

          Do you know who you are when discussing me between each other down on my initial post?

          You are like those bored old ladies with running nose suffering senile dementia in the coffee house sitting all day at the table with ridiculous heavy make-up on their face with a glass of free water on the table whining like cawing crows all day about anyone of their own pick like, — youuuu seee that man is prolix he speaks too much almost as much as weeee do, youuuu seee her skirt is too short — until somebody goes to their table and tells them to shut up their big mouth. You unfortunate impotent idiots.

          You know very well you will get my answer that you deserve for your insults and in your tantalizing frustration you start discussing me among each other and like upset monkeys in the zoo you are consoling and embracing each other with said cheek, taking your choice to make yourself a bigger fool than you were at the beginning.

          Now listen up and sharpen up your ruined mind your brainless idiots. I was speaking about Klebelsberg Institute Maintenance Centre and not about Fulford or Icke get it?
          That’s the topic of this discussion board.

          Now, you ridiculous site pests. I certainly react your insults in my reply but I also tell you to go and discuss the topic not me or other posters.

  7. Observer,

    no answer, gave it up so fast, got in trouble when you have to make sense?

    Some Hungarian news site reported that it is the money of Soros behind the school project and Orban knew about it, and that caused the trouble.
    And schools and teachers are preparing a demonstration against KLIK but I wonder why their names are not on the tanitec com list. Soros financed the restorations of the schools. Soros gave a speech about it on CEU, which he founded and is not under the control of KLIK. And it goes back as far as five years. But you know Orban and Soros are engaged in a feud recently.

    So where has the money gone, what is the financial background, what is the real reason behind this problem, what did you observe?

    No circumlocution please, no easy escape through the emergency exit with your abusing blah blah or making a joke about it. No stupid mathematical calculation about the area of the Danube side banister.

    You are You’re marginalizing yourself with your impotence to make sense and say something beyond mocking and abusing others.

    Prove you’re not an abusive idiot but can make sense. Go, explain it in depth.

    • “Some Hungarian news site reported that it is the money of Soros behind the school project..”

      To the points, no ridicule.

      Nitwit “Hungarian sites” reported BS.
      Soros/Open society money has been available for 30 years, Orban used it too. What’s the news?
      Orban has a feud with liberty and democracy and consequently with everyone who supports those – Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg were the latter “enemies” of his regime.
      The “school project” was started by Orban aiming to subjugate the education system and turn it into “nevelési” i.e. ideological clone breeding grounds. He forgot that real education is also necessary, not his cup of tea anyway.

  8. @Charlie London

    You foresaw the Prolixity cum corrections right and it is a lot of fun reading it. Thanks.

    And … ha, ha, haaaah … I checked out Ben Fulford and David Icke.. OMG, haa.. haa..
    What nitwits peddling crackpot theories!
    Similar sites bounce them around until they become “the reality”.
    Oh God, is this homo sapiens ?

  9. I see there are people on this site who enjoy discussing other posters among each others instead of discussing the topic like Unobservant Observer, Charlie,

    On this board this topic I never mentioned Fulford or Icke as they have no relation with this topic, I mentioned them on another board (Icke a 6 month ago) where they had. These two idiots brought that here without any context only to bully a third person among each other of course cause they don’t like my reply.

    These stupid guys believe it’s enough to disparage Orban and they can release all their dirty bullying on anybody of their own choice. I certainly reply the challenge as I think it’s not the moderator but the commenters are who should handle these abusers. But look, what this site has become. Is that what we want? I personally have never been the first to address these two, they do it sarcastically maliciously as you can see with my first post here up there.

    If I re-challenge them I challenge them with the topic, and of course return their insult. It’s natural.
    But what have this site become?
    Is that really what we want?

    • Jesus Christ Richard! Still cannot get over yourself? Projecting your bullying on to others still? If you are so concerned about what this site is becoming, look in mirror asshole! You sit here and insult everyone who comments, it seems as though you would only be happy if you were the only commenter here. I guess you are so insecure in your intelligence you simply cannot belong to a public commentary. My guess is you didn’t have many friends as a child either. Go be a bull in a China shop somewhere else.

  10. Liz,

    you’re the third idiot, or “asshole” to reply you with quoting your own words, with which you nicely qualified yourself.

    Those two degraded themselves and discredited all their comments with their personal childish stupid posts that I have never provoked but they seem to stop now and there you come to prove there are three of you idiots who think this board was designed for personal chats and for a dirty little war between posters.

    Now at least one of us must have the IQ, the intellect to show some appreciation toward this site and stop the madness and obviously it cannot be either of you, only me, therefore I stop further answering with this last post of mine on this board.

    Meanwhile, you all three of you please free free to continue this dirty little war without me, go post other messages about me proving that I was right you really don’t have the IQ that is required to start behaving yourself.

    That will cure your sick injured pride, the injury you have asked for that
    — once again I never provoked with my first post that created the avalanche. Go prove it.

    • Pretty pathetic that you must call people idiots for simply disagreeing. Childish and insecure in your own intelligence. Call people names if you wish, but then be labelled a troll or simply a bully. Assholes tend to project their own behavior on to others.

      • Liz,
        I agree and I am happy we say the same thing the same way. The war broke out because Observer continued his bullying from the previous board where he called me and idiot by offering pills for me being eurosceptic.
        He continued his unprovoked bullying here, see my first post and his reply.

        I labelled nobody a troll. Didn’t use this word.

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