Some 200 teachers from six highly-rated grammar schools demonstrated in Budapest against the government’s new mandate that, they believe, has made strikes in public education virtually impossible. Meanwhile, hundreds of teachers from some 59 institutions across the country have stood up publicly by the striking rights with more and more schools affected even outside Budapest.
As the government refuses to settle notoriously low salaries and working overload of teachers in public education, a first, 2-hour-long warning strike was held at the end of January. The government had been arguing up until the very day of the strike that it was unlawful due to the lack of a binding court decision. Days before the actual strike, the Budapest Metropolitan Court ruled in favor of the teachers and established the legality of the strike. But since the government appealed the decision, it wasn’t a binding one. As the 2-hour strike fell on deaf ears, teachers aired a larger-scale strike by March 16. However, the appeals court, acting on a complaint by the Human Resources Ministry, overturned the primary decision and ruled that the strike was illegal. After this, the government quickly issued a decree which made strikes in public education invisible and virtually impossible, therefore pointless. In reaction, several teachers began practicing “civil disobedience,” which an increasing number of institutions are joining, arguing that “strike is a fundamental right.”
In this latest action, some 200 teachers of six of the highest-rated Budapest secondary schools took to Egyetem square (in Budapest’s 5th district) in front of ELTE’s Law faculty on Wednesday morning, protesting the government’s move.
The government’s strike decree was a red line crossed against the teaching profession, while the career itself is no longer attractive to the slightest extent and those who stay do so only out of a sense of vocation, participant teachers explained to HVG at the rally. According to them, the most important general problems are low wages, unaccounted working hours done outside the classes, and the abolition of teachers’ leave through, among other things, the national curriculum (NAT).
Teachers of PM Orbán’s Alma Mater also on protest
In parallel, an increasing number of schools join the civil disobedience from outside the capital too. As of now, some 59 institutions reported support of the disobedience
Interestingly, the teachers of the Prime Minister’s former school are also among the protesters. Some ten professionals from Székesfehérvár’s Teleki Blanka Grammar and Primary School, which Viktor Orbán had been attending, stood out publicly protesting the government’s controversial move.
Civilians mocking low prestige of profession with satirical hiring ad
Recently a satirical, fake “recruiting” video was published about the beauties of the teaching profession that soon made it to headlines, with mocking notes like:
- “Competitive salary? Three months-long summer break? Respect and appreciation? What do you need that for, become a teacher instead!”
- “After five years I got my degree. Now, as a young professional, I earn half the money my high school classmates earned two days after graduation… at ALDI!”
- “It’s always been a dream of mine to do volunteer work alongside my regular job. As a teacher, I can do this in one place, because I work sixty hours a week, half of which is unpaid volunteer work.”
featured image: protest of Budapest’s Fazekas Mihály Grammar School’s teachers; via Facebook