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Teachers’ Union’s Open Letter to PM Orbán: “We need an independent Education Ministry”

Hungary Today 2022.04.26.

The Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) has written an open letter to “Hungary’s next Prime Minister,” Viktor Orbán, in which they emphasize that an independent Ministry of Education is needed.

“Several members of the party alliance that won the elections have publicly voiced the opinion that it is indeed necessary and cannot be postponed to improve the situation and living conditions of teachers, including financial appreciation, reduction of the workload, and the creation of conditions for independent intellectuals,” the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) wrote.

The experience of the past few years has shown that education has not really been under the ownership of the government structure so far,”

they added, saying:

For this reason, we believe it is necessary to create an independent Ministry of Education, which can represent all areas of education – from kindergarten to higher education – in a coordinated way.”

They also pointed out that “without significant pay raises and workload reductions, the aging of teaching staff and the dramatic decline in staff numbers cannot be remedied.”

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently gave a speech at the XV Star of the Profession Festival. While he addressed young people, at the end of the speech, he also appealed to teachers:

Dear Teachers and Educators,

It is not only appropriate for me to address you, but also obligatory. This is because many important, resounding results would not have come about without your work. The national and international achievements of Hungary’s skilled workers are testimony to the excellent teachers and educators working in the Hungarian vocational education system. On behalf of the whole country, allow me to express my gratitude and appreciation. Thank you for your selfless work.”

A teacher famous for sharing his opinions about his profession, “Jocó bácsi,” reflected on Orbán’s speech in a Facebook post. He wrote: “I deeply agree with all his thoughts. In fact, thank you for saying so. Because, yes, that is something that children must be taught, that work has value and a price. And good work has even more.” (The Prime Minister’s speech emphasized this when addressing children). He also wrote:

I believe in leading by example. I feel like I’m doing a good job. Yes, it could always be better, it could be different, but basically, I work well. And I would like to ask for the price of that. But I ask in vain, I don’t get it.”

Jocó bácsi also listed several other aspects of their work that teachers have to do without getting paid for it.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ) expressed support for the idea of an independent ministry, and added greater independence for schools and a “predictable future” to teachers’ demands.

It has been clear that the human resources ministry, overseeing many areas, cannot cope with its tasks, and education calls for a separate portfolio with an able minister,”

PSZ told MTI.

PSZ demands that teachers’ salaries should be index-linked to the minimum wage and the same should apply to all school staff.

The union has urged that the burden on teachers, including red tape, should be reduced and that the benefits of teachers working in difficult conditions in poor, rural areas should be doubled.

According to PSZ, Hungary’s education spending should be increased to six percent of the GDP and schools should be financed regardless of the sector they are associated with. The union has also called for a review of the “failed career models” and a new national curriculum with a reduced number of classes.

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Teachers went on strike for months to demand better working conditions, but stopped before the elections, saying the previous government only had executive powers until the new one was formed. However, they plan to continue the strike after the new government is in place.

Earlier, the Hungarian Medical Chamber also called for the establishment of an independent Ministry of Health, because without its own ministry, the sector is underachieving within the Ministry of Human Resources.

According to Gergely Gulyás, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, the independent health ministry was part of the left’s campaign. “It seems certain that there will be no independent health ministry,” he said.

Featured image via Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI

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