Teachers in Hungary have been protesting for weeks over their demands for a pay increase, but the movement is increasingly taking on a political tone. While the demonstrations initially started about teachers’ pay, some observers now think the movement has been hijacked by anti-government opposition forces for their own agenda. It only added fuel to the fire when the vice-president of the Teachers’ Union received a call from Brussels asking for details about the situation.
Last Wednesday, November 30, news emerged that eight teachers working in high schools in Budapest had been dismissed by the Ministry of the Interior for their involvement in the teachers’ civil disobedience movement. The case has sparked outrage among some teachers, who have been demonstrating and striking almost continuously for weeks.
Tamás Totyik, vice-president of the Teachers’ Union, told opposition-friendly ATV television that he had been contacted by phone from Brussels. He said that the European Commission had asked how lawful the dismissal of the teachers concerned was and how many more teachers the Hungarian government could dismiss.
It is clear from the case that Brussels is not only keeping a close eye on Hungarian internal affairs, but is also ready to intervene.
On Saturday, protesters gathered on a busy boulevard in Budapest to protest on behalf of the sacked teachers. At the end of the rally, the dismissed teachers took to the stage, where they addressed the students, thanking them for standing by them and fighting for better education.
Hungarian students had already been involved in the protests, which, although initially were genuinely aimed at pay raises, have now taken on a clear political dimension.
Anti-government slogans, opposition left-wing politicians, and political lobby groups linked to the left are a regular feature of the demonstrations.
The protests will continue this week, with teachers calling a national strike for December 8, and students participating in a sit-in, clearly involving themselves in the political action. On December 9, the United Student Front will organize a demonstration in front of the headquarters of public broadcaster MTVA, under the pretext that students want to speak out about the recent series of demonstrations in the public media and the reasons for them.
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