Saturday afternoon saw large numbers of people protesting in front of Parliament in support of teacher demands, gathered for a demonstration called “Striking is a fundamental right! Great ‘Checkered Shirt’ Gathering.” (Wearing a checkered shirt has become a symbol of support for Hungarian schoolteachers.)
Representatives from Don’t Work for Free, the Voice, the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, the VDSZ Trade Union, the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) and the Tanítanék Movement were all present at the event.
Telex reported that about 5,000-10,000 people showed up for the 3:00pm start to the event. Police stopped traffic on tram 2, which passes through Kossuth Square.
Erzsébet Nagy from PDSZ was the first speaker, who claimed that there had been no substantive change in the situation of Hungarian teachers since their first protests in 2014, and since then only the number of government promises had increased. And if the government had invested as much energy in realizing them as it did in preventing teachers from expressing their dissatisfaction, she said, the situation would be different.
Nagy stated that 20,000 people did not work on Wednesday, the start of the current strike. There would have been more, but in many educational institutions principals declared non-teaching work days for teachers.
The FreeSZFE Association then expressed its solidarity through a video message to the demonstrators, prior to actor Ervin Nagy taking the stage.
Nagy, who portrays a teacher on a popular TV show on RTL Klub, said that teachers were the last bulwark of the Hungarian intelligensia and society cannot afford to lose them. He also named his own teachers, who he said helped launch him on his career.
A video clip from the NoÁr group was also played before organizers held a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of the war in Ukraine. Erzsébet Nagy closed the event by calling on teachers to continue the protest at their workplaces on Monday.
A week of strikes and demonstrations for teachers
The Teachers Union and Democratic Union of Teachers declared a nationwide strike to start on Wednesday, March 16, until their demands are met.
Teachers are demanding substantial pay raises, a reduction in their number of compulsory lessons, and an increase in the salaries of non-teaching staff at schools. Work stoppages were held in Budapest, Pécs, Szeged, and Győr.
Thousands of students demonstrated together in solidarity with teachers in Kossuth Square, and hundreds of student teachers also demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI).
State Secretary for Public Education Zoltán Maruzsa told HírTV that there were no more than 100-150 people at the student solidarity protest on Wednesday, while video footage and on-site reporters made clear that several thousand students were in fact present in Kossuth Square.
Teachers from several schools also took part in the protest on Friday, the third day of the ongoing strike, although it is hard to say how many teachers have joined the movement since Wednesday.
EMMI claims that only 13% of teachers took part in the strike on Wednesday, representing a total of about 15,000 teachers. However, Erzsébet Nagy told Telex that 38% of Hungary’s teachers had indicated ahead of time that they would be taking part in the strike.
Also on Friday, high school students set up a symbolic classroom in Kossuth Square, placing four rows of desks and chairs next to one another, with blankets were laid around them.
Students held a “Sit Out for Our Teachers” event there, where they studied in front of Parliament on Friday morning. The idea was hatched by two high school students as a way to stand up for the striking teachers and make the education system fair to teachers and students alike. [Telex]