Protesters invade central Budapest in support of Hungarian teachers

BUDAPEST, Oct 5 (Reuters) – At least 10,000 Hungarian students, teachers and parents blocked a Budapest bridge before filling a main square outside Parliament on Wednesday to support teachers fighting for higher salaries and fired teachers for demonstrating.

Teachers launched an “I want to teach” campaign and called for civil disobedience to demand higher salaries, a solution to a growing teacher shortage and the right to strike.

Wednesday’s rally, which began with students forming a chain stretching for kilometers (miles) across Budapest in the morning, became the largest anti-government demonstration since the re-election in April of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

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Protesters carrying banners saying ‘Don’t fire our teachers’ and ‘For a glimpse of the future, look at the schools of the present’ crowded a Budapest bridge near parliament, blocking traffic amid a light police presence .

“I know a lot of really cool and wonderful teachers who don’t get enough money for the work and the love they put into their profession,” said Lujza Lukacs, a 14-year-old student in the blockade, who has started high school last month. .

The unions had called for a national teachers’ strike on Wednesday. After a nationwide teachers’ strike in January 2022, the government limited strikes.

Several teachers were fired last week at a secondary school in Budapest for joining the protest.

“This is completely unacceptable and absurd,” said Andras Farkas, another student at the protest, criticizing Orban, who studied political philosophy at Oxford, for ignoring teachers’ “call for help”.

Orban, who was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term on April 3, faces a growing challenge as the economy heads into recession next year, with double-digit inflation and the forint plunging from successive records by compared to the euro.

The government has said it will raise teachers’ salaries once the European Commission releases EU recovery funding for Hungary, which has been withheld due to a dispute over the rule of law.

Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover, a senior member of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, told HirTV on Monday that teachers’ salaries were below average salaries, but strikes were not the way to reach a solution. .

“I’m sure strikes won’t help…because everyone knows that the level of salaries is in no way related to the quality of education in the short term,” Kover said.

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Additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Michael Perry and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura T. Thrasher