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Widespread Strikes, Demonstrations Held Nationwide in Support of Hungary’s Teachers

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]

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3 Comments

  1. Michael Detreköy

    Once again the teachers take the lead in protests in the public space. The conflict will escalate steadily as public finances dry out, making any hope of wage increase and eventually no wages at all, a reality the Hungarian public must face under the current regime. Orbán’s response: “Ask the EU for money” is a grim reminder of times to come, for public employees in Hungary.

  2. Misu bacsi

    I am grateful regarding all details in the posted article today. I agree with Michael Detreköy as to the lead role played by teachers in what will likely be an unfolding series of protests in future months. The regime theft of public funds is the proximate cause of the miserable work conditions for Hungarian teachers, let alone students. A certain spirit of the historic themes of liberal democracy including the 1848, 1918, 1956 revolutions and the first post communist governments is clearly present in these significant protests. If the EU holds firm, the lawless and corrupt Orbán regime may yet succumb to external and internal pressures. Orbán may end up in Russia, not unlike Rákosi. Thanks Steven for important post.

  3. Luis

    I was on Margit híd yesterday. The demonstration was easily the biggest one since 2018, by my reckoning. This is very welcome, since low turnout in demonstrations earlier this year was a prelude to the disastrous result of the united opposition in the April elections. Too many people have been effectively demobilized by the regime. We should expect that the extreme economic hardship that Hungary will go through will change this.

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