Some Hungarian schools to remain segregated

November 25, 2014

Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog
Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog

Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Resources, has filed a bill to amend Hungary’s Public Education Act of 2011. Leftist daily Népszabadság reported that the bill would allow segregation to be legal in some Hungarian public schools, adding that such a motion had been  “planned by minister Balog for a long time.”

The amendment comes just months after the final decision handed down by a Debrecen court of appeals banning the operation of a segregated church school for Roma children in the outskirts of the northeastern town of Nyíregyháza. In another amendment, minister Balog is to get the right to preside over the recently set up National Board of Teachers, a public body with compulsory membership for state school teachers. The National Board’s “Code of Ethics” will also be compulsory for all state schools, while private schools will be obliged to make their own “Code of Ethics” as well as to amend them so they will be “in line” with the National Board’s.

As previously reported, a segregated slum mostly inhabited by ethnic Roma living in extreme poverty had its school closed down in September after a lawsuit filed by Chance for Children Foundation (CFCF) argued that the school serves to segregate Roma children from attending other town schools that would offer more opportunity.  Repeating an earlier judicial decision, the Debrecen court of appeals ordered the closure of the Greek Catholic Church’s segregated school in Nyíregyháza-Huszártelep, and the transfer of its students to other schools. The court reasoned that attending a segregated school substantially diminishes the chances of children to get quality education as well as any opportunity for continuing towards a high school education.

According to Balog, the court decision “only boosted my battle morale […] to keep the school open as this is really in the children’s interest.”

The amendment to be enacted by the parliament in the following week exempts some schools (like Huszártelep) from the requirements of the Equal Opportunities Act. According to representatives of CFCF the decision not only circumvents legal verdicts by the Hungarian judicial system, but also constitutes an “open violation of EU equal opps standards to be observed by member states.”

Legal analyst János Szüdi told Népszabadság that there are additional problems with amendments to the Education Act as well. The primary one was that it would give Balog almost omnipotent power over the recently set-up National Board of Teachers, in addition to introducing the board’s “Code of Ethics” as a compulsory measure for public schools, and would oblige even private institutes of elementary education to take the central code into consideration, while church schools will only have to take it as a “recommendation.”

The exact contents of the Code of Ethics will be proposed by the Ethics Committee of the National Board of Teachers in the course of the next months.

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