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Thousands of Students Mobilize Nationwide to Save the Crumbling State of Hungarian Education

Hungary’s major teacher unions held another national strike on Friday, joined by students, parents, and many others, to protest the state of the country’s educational system. In addition to Budapest, there were demonstrations and work stoppages in nearly all major Hungarian cities. Events with hundreds of protestors expressed their solidarity with Hungarian teachers.

The first event of the day was a flashmob at Budapest’s Széll Kálmán Square at 7:45am, organized by several schools in the Central Buda School District and attended by about two hundred people. The proximate cause of the protest was warning letters sent by the school district to 37 teachers at Ferenc II Rákóczi High School.

While many protests were held throughout the day, the main highlight was a march in downtown Budapest that went from Heroes’ Square to the Interior Ministry, the government body in charge of education.

The marchers, primarily young students, arrived in front of the ministry at nearly 7:00pm. Student organizers gave speeches on a stage decorated with puppets resembling Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, then tore up pro-government newspapers and warning letters sent to teachers before burning them in an oil drum.

Student leaders also read a letter addressed to Minister Pintér, in which they warned him that “you risk your own job if you continue this unacceptable, immoral, and dictatorial behavior.”

The United Student Front was formed on stage, a movement intended to bring together student-based protest groups from cities across the country.

The demonstration was peaceful, with the crowd chanting slogans and singing “We Are the Grund,” which has become the de facto anthem of the pro-education demonstrations, and ending with the Hungarian National Anthem.

Organizers have promised another next major solidarity protest for the October 23 national holiday, and a teacher strike planned for October 27. [Telex]

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