Hungarian teachers’ revolt gathers steam

More than 27,000 individuals and 500 institutions have signed an open letter launched by teachers at the Herman Ottó High School in the eastern Hungarian town of Miskolc, calling on the Orbán regime to re-think the chaotic, highly centralized and authoritarian educational system that it created. Teachers are not only upset about their low wages, but perhaps even more so by the fact that their students are treated as guinea pigs by the state. The content and parameters of examinations are often changed haphazardly, leaving students no chance to properly study for them and teachers unable to offer proper instruction, and the emphasis is entirely on forcing students to memorize massive amounts of lexical knowledge, with no focus placed on developing their critical thinking skills. That is perhaps not so surprising, as the last thing that an authoritarian regime needs is a new generation of young citizens who are able to think and question.

In addition to the above, school principles throughout Hungary have lost almost all of their authority, with a central, national agency abbreviated as KLIK, in charge of all aspects of a school’s administration–from property maintenance to budgetary and HR decisions.

Realizing that the catastrophic state of Hungarian education is starting to galvanize parents and teachers throughout the country, the Fidesz regime’s Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog, called for a special round table with teachers and others involved in education. But it soon transpired that the only people invited to this round table were those who were most servile and indebted to the regime, and who were largely docile.

As such, a group of teachers calling themselves “The Uninvited” have called on all parties to boycott these talks. The leader of the Teachers’ Union (Pedagógusok Szakszervezete – PSZ), Mrs. István Galló, has labelled the proposed round table as a “delaying tactic.” Mrs. Galló added that there is little reason to meet, as the acute problems in the Hungarian educational system are well-known to the regime.

Mrs. István Galló, leader of the PSZ union.

Mrs. István Galló, leader of the PSZ union.

On Monday, Mrs. Galló announced that in addition to grassroots protests scheduled for February 3rd, the PSZ leadership will be holding a mass demonstration in Budapest on February 13th, where they will present their 25 demands to the regime. These include dramatically reducing the amount of lexical material  that students are required to learn and also restoring the independence of schools, providing principles with more powers over their budgets, upkeep of their properties and HR decisions. Mrs. Galló is also demanding that teachers once again be permitted to choose their own textbooks, rather than having to use the state’s “one size fits all” approach.

Teachers  in Miskolc  (population: 161,300) will take to the streets on February 3rd, marching with torches through the industrial town’s city centre. But the revolt is now spreading and teachers in at least eight other cities in Hungary announced Monday that they would be holding their own  marches and demonstrations, in solidarity with those who initiated this protest at the Herman Ottó High School. The cities where protests are being planned for Wednesday include Budapest, the Budapest suburb of Budaörs, Békéscsaba, Pécs, Sopron, Szeged, Szombathely and Veszprém. All of these protests are being skillfully organized at the grassroots level, through social media–primarily Facebook.

The locations of planned demonstrations on February 3rd, 2016 by Hungarian teachers and school administrators.

The locations of planned demonstrations on February 3rd, 2016 by Hungarian teachers and school administrators. The movement was launched by teachers in the northeastern town of Miskolc (marked by the red-coloured pin).

The demonstration in Budapest will be held in iconic Szabadság tér, or Freedom Square, which has also been the location of almost nightly open air lectures and talks by the Living Memorial group–those who for the past two years have been protesting the regime’s revisionist monument to the German occupation of Hungary in World War II, and who have erected their own grassroots memorial.

A growing number of teachers and parents are rallying around the protest launched by a small group of courageous teachers in one Miskolc high school. And the regime in Budapest is looking increasingly nervous.

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2 Comments

  1. As long as the present Union with Ms. Galló is at the helm, the win for the Government is guaranteed. Only token concessions will be made publicly, then slowly withdrawn, while the active teachers will be pursued, punished, intimidated and many teachers will be laid off, fired and blacklisted!

    Major criminals and thieves dressed in suits are masquerading as a Government in Hungary and they are unscrupulously willing to do ANYTHING to remain in full control and power.

    Ms. Galló is no better than any present Government politician. She is part of the problem.

  2. “And the regime in Budapest is looking increasingly nervous.”

    I don’t know. They survived even bigger demonstrations like the one against the internet tax. Orban is dancing with fine steps.
    I don’t expect anything from demonstrations if they go home and go on living as they did before.

    Meanwhile, even if the demonstration doesn’t bring about any palpable results with the government, but their mass togetherness creates a new understanding, and empathy even among the other layers of the society that are not affected by the present problem, and creates a spirit of strong and long lasting imperishable cohesion force within the middle class and they can continue their everyday life in that spirit…. I think they will be able to handle the government and build new life.

    There’s always hope, there is always a second chance.

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