Hungarian teachers strike against government, demand reforms

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Thousands of teachers in Hungary held a one-day strike on Wednesday against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s centralization of the education system.

The strike, the first major one against Orban’s conservative government since its return to power in 2010, was announced by the country’s largest teachers’ union.

Union leader Piroska Gallo said nearly 25,000 teachers in 1,185 schools had taken part, or around 20 percent of all teachers and schools.

Many of the striking teachers, who are expected to lose a day’s pay, wore checkered shirts — a symbol of their protests. Marches and two shorter strikes were also held in recent months.

“This is a way to put pressure” on the authorities, said Eva Gombos of the ELTE Agoston Trefort Training Gymnasium. “It could be munition for those who are negotiating.”

Gombos and some of her colleagues gathered at the school said overburdened students, the lack of choice in text books and the inflexible curriculum were among their biggest concerns.

“We are not doing this for ourselves but for the future generations,” teacher Kati Elteto said. “We want it to be better for the youth.”

Student activist Mate Szabo was disappointed that few of his schoolmates had walked out of class but said the teachers’ action was justified.

“I see a kind of commitment from teachers,” said Mate Szabo. “This is the third time they are standing up for themselves and I think this is going to continue.”

The government has promised some concessions, including fewer classes for students and a reduction in administrative work. The centralized education authority, known by its acronym of KLIK, is also slated to be eliminated.

Education officials say the differences with teachers need to be resolved through negotiations.