The debate on the reopening of schools in Hungary continues. Although Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced last week that secondary schools will not return to on-site education until May, kindergartens and primary schools are still scheduled to open next Monday. While the government claims it is safe to return to in-person education, several teacher’s unions are protesting the decision. Meanwhile, many parents are considering not letting their children back to school right at the height of the third coronavirus wave.
“Everything is ready for the opening of schools on April 19,” Secretary of State for Public Education, Zoltán Maruzsa, said at a press conference on Friday.
The date of April 19 remains unchanged; kindergartens and elementary schools are to open as planned. But students in grades 9-12 in public education and vocational schools, however, will return to classroom education only on May 10th, Maruzsa announced.
In response to the government’s decision, the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) issued an open letter addressed to PM Orbán, expressing that the postponement of the secondary schools’ opening is a positive step, but still demanding that all public education institutions remain closed, maintain a digital work schedule, and introduce it in kindergartens as well.
PDSZ believes the closure of public educational institutions is not only in the interest of teachers, but also society as a whole.
There is no professional who has not drawn attention to the fact that the opening of kindergartens and schools poses a huge threat to public health. Now that Hungary’s healthcare is on the verge of collapse, we cannot risk additional burden on it by opening kindergartens and schools, the teacher’s union says.
PDSZ writes that while there is not even a rough estimate on the date for the vaccination of children, pupils, and younger parents; it is known that the currently spreading virus variant can cause serious illness among young people as well, moreover, it is rapidly spreading among them.
Furthermore, according to PDSZ, teachers are bound to refuse to perform the order for on-site education.
As we previously reported, PDSZ has already launched a campaign to prevent schools from reopening, while student movement ADOM also called on students to protest the decision.
In addition to PDSZ, another teacher’s union, PSZ, is also opposed to the reopening of schools and demands the government postpone the introduction of compulsory in-person education scheduled for April 19th. The organization also wants the vaccination protocol to be adhered to.
FactThe out-of-order vaccination of public education workers started on the 1st of April in two phases. A lot of educators received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, while schools are to reopen next Monday. Many fear teachers won’t develop the necessary immunity in time as it would require several weeks after administering not the first, but the second jab. Furthermore, according to the head of the Klebelsberg Center (KLIK), (the ministerial agency responsible for primary and secondary schools), so far only 75 percent of educators have applied for a vaccine.
In reaction to the situation, epidemiologist, Beatrix Oroszi, who is a member of the advisor group helping the Orbán government, said in an interview that until all teachers receive their second vaccination and two more weeks elapse, all teachers and students should wear masks and keep their distance in schools.
Although the government says it’s safe to open schools, and that the majority of parents want that as well, many of them are afraid to let their children return to school.
Due to the scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Hungary, the opposition mayor of Budaörs, Tamás Wittinghoff, decided not to allow his children to go to school, Magyar Hang reports.
“I don’t care what [state secy] Maruzsa says. … he should risk his own life!,” the politician wrote in a Facebook post. “My children certainly won’t go to school while [the country is] seeing such epidemic data,” Wittinghoff emphasized.
Talking to RTL Klub News vice president of PSZ, Tamás Totyik, said parents have the right to not let even a healthy child return to school. Parents can apply for absence with due cause, which must be accepted by schools even without any justification. The protection of life and health is certainly due cause, Totyik said.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Mohai/MTI