Budapest (MTI) – Teachers held a demonstration in Budapest on Saturday to protest against the 2015 budget and the planned reform of public education.
Head of the teachers’ trade union PSZ Piroska Gallo told the protesters who filled the street in front of the public education state secretary’s office that even though November 22 is the day of public education, there is currently no reason to celebrate. If parliament approves the 2015 budget bill in its current form and the changes the PSZ considers detrimental to public education, then the future of children and Hungary will be irrevocably damaged, she added.
Martin Romer, secretary-general of the European Trade Union Committee for Education, told the event that he had arrived to share the solidarity of 13 million colleagues from 135 member organisations in 42 countries. The Hungarian government is not listening to teachers and gives no indication of wanting to involve them in dialogue, he added.
The trade union submitted a petition to a representative of the state secretary’s office at the end of the demonstration. They demand that the further transformation of the public education system should be stopped until preliminary impact studies are available and real consultations are held. Also, the government should make public its plans for the transformation of vocational training and the central state agency for managing schools, the Klebelsberg Institute (KLIK), the petition says.
The demonstration ended peacefully.
After the demonstration, head of teachers trade union PDSZ Laszlo Mendrey called for all trade unions working in public education to join forces. If the government does not take the protest seriously, then a strike will be unavoidable, he added.
Head of the National Teachers Chamber Peter Horvath told MTI on Saturday that based on next year’s budget bill no lay-offs should be expected and the resources are available for meeting the requirements of the teachers’ career path scheme. The allocation for education and support for Klik will be sufficient for secure operation, he added.
The ruling Fidesz party’s parliamentary group said in a statement in reaction to the demonstration that whereas the past governments of Ferenc Gyurcsany and Gordon Bajnai took away a month’s wage from teachers and fired around ten thousand of them, currently the greatest wage increase scheme since post-communist transformation is under way and the budget bill shows that 50 billion more will be spent on public education next year than this year.
The opposition Socialists said that the government’s education policy fails to serve the interests of Hungarian children. Lawmaker Agnes Kunhalmi said a general political and economic crisis is under way in Hungary and the Socialists call for a knowledge-based society.
The radical nationalist Jobbik expressed solidarity with teachers. According to Jobbik’s statement, the drastic reduction of secondary school capacities is a bad decision that will not resolve the problems of vocational training which has been increasingly in crisis in the past 25 years. It is a grave mistake by the government not to consider education as an investment and withdraw funding from it, the party added.
The Hungarian Liberal Party said in a statement that Fidesz is purposely cutting back Hungary’s education system because it wants obedient subjects instead of self-conscious Hungarian citizens. The party expressed its support to the teachers’ action.
Photo: MTI – Tamas Kovacs