A demonstration organised by students was held for public education and teachers in front of the interior ministry in Budapest on Friday evening.
The participants at the demonstration organised by the “Students for Teachers” Facebook group demanded immediate wage increases as a solution to the shortage of teachers. They also demanded professional autonomy for teachers, teaching material that is “teachable and learnable”, “liveable schools” and a genuine dialogue about public education.
Demonstrators gathered at Heroes’ Square and made their way along Andrassy Boulevard and Jozsef Attila Street to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the ministry at Szechenyi Square. They carried a banner reading “We are with our teachers” at the front. Student speakers at the square insisted that “education is a national issue”, saying they were proud of their teachers who stood up for the cause of education.
“These teachers teach us what is missing most in Hungary today: courage”. They criticised school district leaders for “sacking” or threatening with such a reprimand teachers who participate in an act of civil disobedience, and burned copies of dismissal letters.
Many of the demonstrators carried Hungarian and EU flags and flags symbolising chequered shirts, an outfit that has become associated with teacher demonstrations. They held up banners reading “To strike is a fundamental right”.
The government is committed to further increasing salaries for teachers, while “it is the leftist parties that are hindering” its efforts, the government’s information centre (KTK) said in a statement on Friday.
Reacting to strike actions and demonstrations staged by teachers nationwide on Friday, the KTK underlined the government’s commitment to enacting “unprecedented pay hikes” as soon as the government agrees with the European Union on unlocking funding.
According to the statement, the government aims to raise teachers’ average salaries to 80 percent of the average of professionals in Hungary by 2025. The KTK added that teachers’ salaries could increase by 21 percent next year, 25 percent in 2024, and they could be 29-30 percent higher than their current wages in 2025.
Representatives of the leftist parties, however, “keep on working in Brussels to prevent Hungary from receiving the funds it is entitled to,” the statement said, adding that “a higher increase than earlier planned” could be financed from those monies.
Concerning the strikes, the KTK said that “legally organised strikes are a form of legitimate expression with no consequences”, adding that teachers “participating in a legal strike action” would face no penalties. Despite what leftist parties claim, the statement said, “there are no mass dismissals whatever” and “so far only 5 teachers who have repeatedly participated in illegal strikes have been dismissed.”