Hungarians held a day of support for the country’s teachers on Wednesday, including a nationwide strike, several kilometers of a “human chain,” the occupation of a bridge over the Danube, concerts, and speeches. Demonstrators repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with Hungarian public education, asking why there were not enough teachers in schools, and why teachers’ salaries were shockingly low.
In addition to demands heard at previous such events: wage increases, restoring the right to strike, and a reduction in workload, protestors also called for reinstating five teachers who were fired from Ferenc Kölcsey High School in Budapest for their involvement in strike activities. But many teachers felt that these dismissals only added fuel to the fire, making their voices even louder and more insistent.
One of the day’s most spectacular moments was a “human chain” that took place in Budapest, in which thousands of people linked themselves together. Parents, young people, and students from more than 50 schools could be seen in the line of people that stretched for several kilometers, from Buda all the way to Keleti Rail Station. Motorists and bus drivers showed their support by honking their horns.
In addition to the capital, teachers, students, and parents took part in similar protests in towns big and small around the country, such as Veszprém, Szeged, Szombathely, Velence, and Ráckeve.
Strikes and demonstrations began in the morning
From early morning, there were protest and awareness events throughout the country, and a call for a general strike by the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ). Many schools canceled lessons as hundreds of teachers protested with a work stoppage, and many others did the same in solidarity.
In addition to demonstrations around the capital, a protest was held in front of the Inner-Pest Education Center, where teachers and students together sent a message to those who had decided to fire the teachers at Kölcsey High School. The teacher unions gave Ombudsman Ákos Kozma a petition that described how the educational rights of children, parents, and teachers were being violated.
During this time, Bence Rétvári, State Secretary for Education at the Ministry of the Interior, was in Székesfehérvár to dedicate a parochial school.
Margit Bridge taken over within 20-30 minutes
The demonstrations continued with the occupation of Margit Bridge late in the afternoon. Within just 20-30 minutes, the bridge and its surroundings were completely filled with a crowd of several thousand demonstrators. Despite the activity, Hungary’s main public television station and the pro-government media devoted scant or no coverage to the protests.
The protestors then enthusiastically marched to Kossuth Square, where an enormous crowd had formed by the evening. The square was already full by the time the speeches and concerts began, with the crowd virtually unable to move.
One of the speakers was Tanítanék Movement co-founder Katalin Törley, who was terminated from Kölcsey Ferenc High School just yesterday. As she said, education has become an issue for several million people, and we can’t back down in the face of power. At the end of the event, thousands of demonstrators held up the lights on their cellphones. [Telex]