The Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) is asking the government to close schools as the third wave appears to be hitting educational institutions extremely hard, and the worst is yet to come. Another trade union thinks the government views teachers as “expendable” and critizes the government’s attitude.
While higher and secondary education is already going online (except for graduation exam preparations), kindergartens and primary schools have kept onsite learning. Meanwhile, infection data has been steeply climbing for days now, putting the topic of school closures back on the agenda (in institutions where infection rates confirm it, the Operative Board can order online teaching or suspension). The Orbán government, however, has always been reluctant to implement this, pointing to economic reasons.
According to PDSZ’s open letter, most of the institutions already have to implement some kinds of epidemiological measures, as an increasing number of institutions have been ordered to close partially or totally, while more and more teachers are hospitalized. As a result, not only are the workers at increased risk if teaching goes on, but also pupils and their relatives.
PDSZ’s open letter also highlights that the teachers’ community is an aging one, with the average age being 54 years, many among them with chronic illnesses. Parallelly, educational employees are not prioritized at all in the vaccination program; even those working in boarding schools or children’s homes are yet to be vaccinated.
According to PDSZ, ordering online teaching wouldn’t result in the retreat of the epidemic. But if workers in the sector were vaccinated after the closure, schools could also open again soon.
The organization also wants the government to provide support for both parents who stay at home with their children and for employers in order to protect jobs and income. The EU has provided funding for this purpose, they argue.
Therefore, PDSZ’s letter calls on the Prime Minister to “set aside political considerations now in this historic situation,” “…these are historical times – and decisions of historical significance are in front of you. Don’t let us and society down: stop the rapid spread of the third wave!,” their letter concludes.
PSZ: Gov’t fails to appropriately defend teachers
Meanwhile in an interview with 24.hu, Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ) vice-chair Gábor Gosztonyi criticized many aspects of the government’s attitude towards the teaching community during the pandemic. While teachers are extremely appreciated in theory, when it comes to deeds the government instead communicates things to society that are simply not true.
According to the trade union dignitary, the government fails to provide enough protection for teachers, other than disinfectant and facemasks, although there would still be plenty of other necessities.
Contradictory to the government, Gosztonyi also highlights that according to their calculations, only a fifth or sixth of the teachers getting infected with Covid have received the full 100% sick leave benefit (for a “normal” sick leave employees are entitled to get 60% of their salaries) despite Human Capacities Minister Miklós Kásler’s promise in September.
He also argues that teachers are not prioritized for vaccinations despite WHO’s recommendation and the Chief Medical Officer’s promise, and that many teachers are overloaded due to the circumstances, something that the state fails to compensate.
He claimed that as to what they know, there are at least 35 victims of the coronavirus among teachers, but this number is certainly a lot higher in reality. He believes many of these deaths could have been prevented.
featured image: body temperature measurement before teaching (illustration); via Zoltán Balog/MTI