In an online press conference, representatives of Hungary’s united opposition coalition unanimously declared their support for yesterday’s public teacher strike.
The speakers assured the striking teachers of their solidarity, considering the two-hour work stoppage justified because the government has not lived up to its promises but rather seized every means to deter the strike from occurring. Educators were also reassured that after winning the April 3 elections, United for Hungary will fundamentally reform the education system, give educators more freedom, and put less burden on teachers and students.
MP Tamás Csányi, Jobbik’s education specialist, spoke about the fact that although teachers requested a salary increase last October, the government has not complied with it. If the opposition is able to form a new government, it will raise the salaries of public school teachers by 50% over four years in recognition of their efforts. They will also introduce a rental housing program to help teachers wherever there is a critical need for teachers in a given area.
Gábor Erőss, the deputy mayor of Budapest’s Józsefváros district and Dialogue’s education expert, said that after April the new government would shut down the Klebelsberg Center, self-determination would be restored to local communities, and special attention would be paid to avoiding the pre-2010 mistakes in the educational system. He mentioned the new developments in kindergartens in Józsefváros as a good example, where English language classes and programs to ensure equal opportunities are now offered.
Endre Tóth, a member of the Momentum board with a focus on education, spoke about how the Hungarian government severely curtails employees’ rights, then threatens those who stand up for their interests. Fortunately, this did not manage to deter teachers from the strike, he said.
Tóth also said that once the opposition can form a government, schools will have more independence in choosing textbooks, and the curriculum will be simpler and less burdensome for both teachers and students.
Gergely Arató, the deputy leader of DK’s parliamentary group and the party’s point person on education, emphasized that the the former ministry of education took the opinions of teachers into account, while the current government does not. He believes that a separate ministry for education would give more respect to teachers, students, and parents.
Krisztina Hohn, the deputy head of the LMP parliamentary group, promised a smaller workload for teachers and much less unnecessary administrative work after they win the April elections. She also said that the unfortunate increase in violence within schools could be reduced with better educational policy instead of with security guards.
István Hiller, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and former Minister of Education in the MSZP government, believes the current situation has come about because the government promised that more pay would be given for more work, but did not fulfill its promise. He said that the demands of struggling teachers were fair, and mentioned that Hungarian education was falling more and more behind. A new government and regime is needed, which he thinks will be better for teachers, students, and the country.
Ruling party Fidesz released a statement on Monday afternoon in reaction to the opposition’s press conference:
Today’s teacher strike is a left-wing campaign move. As the election approaches, teachers are once again being exploited and harassed by the left, which, when it was in power, took a month of pay from them, closed hundreds of rural schools, put thousands of teachers out on the streets, and made them work for humiliatingly low wages.
-claimed the Fidesz statement. [Magyar Hang]