Hundreds protest ill-conceived education reforms in Miskolc

June 12, 2016

Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon
Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon

“They deceived us, dispossessed us, stole from the gypsies the resources with which to raise themselves up . . . just as they stole the FX debtors’ money, EU fiscal transfers, and the pensioners’ savings, and the honest work of employees. . . They want to steal our children’s future as well.  They even want to steal hope itself.” – Andrea Varga, trade union leader

Some three hundred teachers and sympathizers protested the government’s educational policies in the northern Hungarian city of Miskolc Saturday afternoon.  The end of the school year event was organized by the Teachers Trade Union (PSZ), the Teachers Democratic Trade Union (PDSZ), the Civil Public Education Platform and the Tanítanék (I want to teach) movement.

Undeterred by bad weather immediately before the event, the demonstrators showed in anger against the government’s educational policies in the city, the capital of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county.  It was here that Hungary’s Tanítanék movement was launched at the end of 2015 in a desperate attempt by teachers to roll back ill-conceived educational reforms introduced under the second and third Orbán governments.

After singing the Hungarian national anthem, Ferenc Földes Academic High School teacher Tamás Szűcs (who is the president of the Miskolc chaper of PDSZ) recited the poem “Give Me Air!” (Levegőt!) by Hungarian poet Attila József.  Szűcs did so in place of the professional actors employed by the Hungarian National Theatre who had been invited to recite it but who decided they dare not participate in the anti-government protest.

Autonomous Trade Union president Andrea Varga spoke about “a dehumanized country in the name of an inhuman ministry.”

“They deceived us, dispossessed us, stole from the gypsies the resources with which to raise themselves up . . . just as they stole the FX debtors’ money, EU fiscal transfers, and the pensioners’ savings, and the honest work of employees,” Varga said.

She said the government was contemptuous of pensioners and had deprived the country of “honor, truth, and family peace and love.”  It was not possible to teach the hungry to fish without first giving them fish so they didn’t starve to death.

The trade union president also expressed her dissatisfaction with the management of social services, culture and public health services.

“People are dying of infections in the hospitals.  They want to steal our children’s future as well.  They even want to steal hope itself.”

“We do not want a national consultation but a referendum,” announced Varga without clarifying what the subject of the referendum would be.  She closed her speech by announcing that there would be a protest in front of Parliament on July 1st “where we say what we think about public health-care and our lives.”

Kistokaj independent mayor and Hungarian Local Government Association (MÖSZ) presidium member Gyöngyi Ambrus said: “After Klik (Klebelsberg Institutional Maintenance Center-ed.) failed, we hoped the schools would be returned to the municipalities but that is not what happened.

“The churches and foundations are allowed to operate schools, even as the law strips local governments of the same opportunity,” complained Ambrus.  She said a number of local governments were resisting the nationalization of their schools, citing the example of Budaörs, which is demanding the restoration of municipal ownership and control over public schools.  She said MÖSZ is cooperating with the Civil Education Platform (CKP) and Tanítanék “in the interest of the students and the future of our youth.”

In a lengthy speech, Benjámin Oláh, speaking as a parent, excoriated the government’s educational policy, and gave Miskolc mayor Ákos Kriza (Fidesz) and Fidesz MP Katalin Csöbör “F”s as politicians.  He also had tough words for the Felcsút small-gauge railway, the Hungarian Academy of Culture (MMA), the teaching of ethics and Central Bank governor György Matolcsy.

“We must protect our children from the spiritual cage built by (Minister for Human Resources) Balog,” said the speaker, adding that his children were not going to Russia or Azerbaijan to learn, but to the West.

Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon
Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon

Teachers Trade Union (PSZ) county chapter deputy chair Magdolna Nagy (pictured here) spoke about the anomalies of technical education.  She called attention to the bill currently before Parliament that would fundamentally alter technical training in Hungary.  “They must not force 14-year-old children to make decisions that affect their entire lives, and from which they may not deviate.”

The trade union leader concluded her speech by calling for the government to “keep its hands off of technical education.”

Trade union activist Tamás Szűcs said: “Society supports our goals but is defied by the government it elected.” He was joined on stage by Olivér Pilz (pictured below), the Ottó Hermann Academic High School teacher and public employee council president who has played a central role in the teachers’ uprising.

Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon
Photo: Péter Szegő, Budapest Beacon

Pilz demanded non-discriminative, equal opportunity education, to which Szűcs added that the European Union (EU) had launched an infringement proceeding against Hungary because the government had failed to take corrective measures.

The organizers concluded the event by handing out “F”s to various politicians involved in education, including former undersecretary for primary education Mrs. Judit Bertalan Czunyi, her successor László Palkovics, Minister Zoltán Balog, Fidesz deputy chairman and parliamenary delegation head Lajos Kosa, Fidesz deputy chairman and MP Szilárd Németh, Minister János Lázár (who is also an MP) and last but not least Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

After announcing that they would devote the summer break to organizing and planning for the fall, all the presenters took to the stage to recite Lőrinc Szabó’s poem “Prayer for the children” (Ime a gyermekekért).