The Hungarian government supports school segregation for Roma

A  couple of days ago I noticed a short news item in Euraktiv.com entitled “Hungary criticizes EU Commission’s ‘lack of flexibility’ on Roma policies.” Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, who represented Hungary at the meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC),  wants flexibility in implementing the integration of schools. In fact, as we will see later, Zoltán Balog doesn’t believe in integration. This fact is well-known in Hungary, but it seems that the news hasn’t reached Brussels yet, as so many things don’t.

Balog emphasized at the meeting that there can be no uniform Roma strategy for all EU countries and therefore the European Commission has to be “more responsive” to the changes demanded by member states. However, he added, the Roma issue “is a European responsibility.” How typical. The EU is responsible financially and otherwise for dealing with the very serious unemployment and poverty of the Roma minority but Hungary will do whatever the Orbán government, specifically Zoltán Balog, thinks ought to be done. And since  Zoltán Balog doesn’t believe in integration, what he would like is to have a free hand in the matter.

Naturally, Zoltán Balog was wise enough to keep his conviction to himself, and instead he listed the government’s accomplishments in the last four years. It is true that they named an undersecretary, Zoltán Kovács, to be in charge of Roma issues. Kovács, it should be noted, failed as undersecretary in charge of government propaganda directed toward the outside world and also failed as government spokesman. It is also true that the Orbán government changed the constitution to allow separate parliamentary representation for ethnic groups and nationalities, but we know from Professor Kim Scheppele’s essay on the electoral law that it only provides for the election of one Fidesz-picked MP to represent the Roma community while it deprives Gypsies of the right to cast a vote for the party of their choice. That’s why Aladár Horváth, a Roma activist, urged Gypsies not to register as Gypsies and organized a separate Gypsy Party which will have 60 candidates running in the next election. Balog also talked about “training schemes in sectors such as masonry, forestry, and construction aimed at giving Roma the necessary skills to find a job on the market.” I must say this is new to me.  The only thing I have read about, in article after article, are the absolutely useless classes that prepare the chronically unemployed for nothing.

It was at least three years ago that I gained the distinct feeling that Balog, then still undersecretary in charge of Roma issues, wanted to “outsource” the problems associated with the Gypsy minority’s economic and social difficulties to the churches. He kept talking with church leaders, emphasizing their unique talents for such tasks. Although he tried to dump the whole thing onto the churches, he didn’t quite succeed. However, as the churches took over more and more schools, some poor segregated schools ended up in their hands.

Erzsébet Mohácsi / Source: Népszabadság, Photo by János M. Schmidt

Erzsébet Mohácsi / Source: Népszabadság, Photo by János M. Schmidt

Enter a foundation that has been fighting for a number of years for the rights of children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds (Esélyt a Hátrányos Helyzetű Gyerekeknek Alapítvány). The Foundation has been trying to mediate between parents and schools to achieve integration. But since it is becoming obvious that the government itself doesn’t stand behind integration efforts, the Foundation has only one recourse: to go to court.

Lately, the Foundation had an important win against the Greek Catholic Church, which has two schools in Nyíregyháza: one elite school and one segregated school. The school that is currently segregated had been closed earlier and the children were bused to the school downtown, but after the Church took over, the segregated school was reopened.

For one reason or another Balog is enamored with the plans of the Greek Catholic Church in Nyíregyháza. He sees this particular school as the “citadel of convergence” for Roma students. He imagines integration as a two-step effort: first you put the disadvantaged, mostly Roma, children into segregated schools where “they will catch up.” Once they achieve the knowledge and skills in these segregated schools equal to that of students in the “white” schools, the Roma children can be integrated into the mainstream population. We know that this is nonsense. American segregated schools were also supposed to be “separate but equal,” which of course they were not. According to Erzsébet Mohácsi, president of the Foundation, Balog believes that there is good and bad segregation. His segregation will be excellent, of course.

The Foundation won the case against the Greek Catholic Church where Balog went so far as to be a witness for the defense where he argued for segregation before the judge. Although the Foundation won the case and therefore the Greek Catholic Church is supposed to close its segregated school, it became quite clear during the proceedings that the good Christians have no intention of integrating. The judge apparently asked whether they could find places in the Church’s downtown school for 12 children who just started first grade in the segregated school. The representative of the Church, after some hesitation, announced that perhaps they could create a new classroom directly under the roof. The judge was taken aback and tried to explain to him what the suit was all about. The answer was that the students couldn’t be integrated into the existing classes because it would be “harmful to the other children.” Balog after the trial announced that the verdict “is a sad commentary on the judiciary, which denies parents’ right to a free choice of schools.”

I might add that Balog found an ally on the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels– the president of EESC, French politician Henri Malosse. He praised Hungary’s efforts. He visited Hungary and was very impressed because “pupils have knowledge about the Roma culture” there. He also called the critical coverage of events in Hungary “disinformation.” Although Malosse has a degree in Russian and East European Studies and speaks Polish and Russian, he seems to know little about Hungary. It is hard to believe that he would approve of segregated schools for Roma students as the norm in Hungary and elsewhere. Members of the Orbán government are very good at hiding their true intentions. Let’s hope that the hidden agenda will not remain hidden for long.

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Guest
HiBoM
March 10, 2014 6:46 pm

Slightly OT but only slightly! That excellent Haydn conductor, Adam Fischer, has given an interesting interview about the gypsy holocaust that, amongst other things, puts the Angel Gabriel statue into a new and interesting light:

http://hvg.hu/elet.kultura/20140310_A_birodalmi_sas_esete_Gabriellel_a_magyar

Guest
March 10, 2014 6:53 pm

Very informative post on the hidden agenda. Always a pleasure reading your work.

Guest
March 10, 2014 7:15 pm

The thing is, the policies of Hungary’s neighbours on the subject are so lame that the usual Fidesz clientelism may appear satisfactory to some. Wrongly because such an approach quickly reaches its limits and can only lead to a dead end, as the Nyíregyháza affair illustrates.

Mr Malosse was obvioulsy given the VIP treatment in Budapest last fall. However, I wouldn’t pay much attention to the EESC: the institution was designed 50 years ago and de facto excludes NGOs, which have been the most active organisations in that field for decades. The EESC head’s call for the EC to implement legally binding measures seems a good example of how clueless they can be.

Guest
Kond
March 10, 2014 8:39 pm

OT: in Hungarian a great article about working at CBA, the Fidesz- and Jobbik-supporting grocery chain. Much of it is common knowledge in the FMCG industry: CBA will purchase any stuff from any major producer (including, yes, from all multinationals) that is past its sell-by date and at CBA they will use it either internally (in the bakery for example) or will repackage the stuff, or just change the stickers. Some of these stale stuff then gets exported to Romanian or Serbia, where customers are even less sophisticated. It is also a reminder how capitalism works for the bottom rungs and why these people are angry and why the left just does not interest these employees any more.

http://www.hirhatar.hu/hir/kitalal-egy-volt-cba-s-dolgozo-olvasoi-level

Member
March 10, 2014 11:37 pm

Re-posting — apologies for the OT, but unless I am getting paranoid, this alert is now unfortunately needed: FOUL FIDESZ TROLL-SPAM A group of Fidesz-managed trolls under the false-name of “HVG so bad?” wrote : “It is stunning that some fanatics even attack HVG, it is as liberal as they come. Journalists are not campaign propagandists on the liberal side. That is the norm on the Fidesz site. A real newspaper has to adhere to some rules, it is not HVG that need their head examined but some people on this site. People accuse HVG but do not raise their voice, when blatant antisemitism appears on the site. Targeting a Jewish intellectual and then throwing her in front of the mob like some virtual pogrom to face attacks ranging from “very crazy” to “dirty jew”. And the first thing people mention is that she is a jew. Last time people paid such close attention to everyone’s Jewishness or not was in the 30s. It had nothing to do with whether her view had any truth to it regarding Mazsihisz, or not (it didn’t).” Well, just when you though it was safe to dip back in the chatter, it’s back! The… Read more »

Guest
HiBoM
March 11, 2014 3:32 am

OT, Steven, instead of spamming this thread why don’t you simply respond to what is written? The first part of his argument seems entirely reasonable. The second more debatable. And it is just narcissism in the extreme to imagine that we are so important that we could be influencing the election, hence Fidesz disruption!!! Get real mate!

Guest
tappanch
March 11, 2014 4:02 am

Election.

Fidesz majority in the election commission changes the ballot sheet format.

Originally, the 22 parties qualified for the nationwide party list were supposed to be printed in one line.

THere was a random drawing for the positions on the ballot sheets on March 4.
(31 parties and 13 ethnic organizations)

Fidesz became #9, Opposition #30 (penultimate position), Jobbik #31 on the party sheet.

http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20140304-kisorsoltak-az-orszagos-listak-sorszamat

Thirteen parties were disqualified AFTER the drawing.

http://valasztas.hu/hu/ogyv2014/769/769_0_index.html

So Fidesz jumped to #6 position, Opposition to #17 (still penultimate) and Jobbik is still the last, #18 on the list.

Fidesz would be in a bad middle position on a 1×18 sheet.

So they now changed the format of the sheet into 2×9.

That places both Fidesz and Jobbik in the most advantageous final position.

Guest
tappanch
March 11, 2014 4:26 am

Correction:

after the party disqualifications, Fidesz is not #9, but #6, so a 3×6 format would benefit Fidesz most.

click on “Országos listaállítások” at http://valasztas.hu/hu/ogyv2014/769/769_0_index.html

—-

Campaigning.

When I was going to the airport, Fidesz billboards outnumbered Opposition by 4 to 1 along the way, in my counting.

When I came back nine days later, Jobbik was everywhere.

Elevator ads: only Jobbik and Fidesz, no Opposition.

Brochures in the mailboxes: the same

Guest
numeric
March 11, 2014 4:29 am

Despite all the issues with the centralization of the school system (all schools, however rural and far away are managed from Budapest and all teachers are employed by this super-authority) the teachers in Hungary are conservative and lean towards Fidesz, especially in rural regions. In rural regions (that is outside of Budapest) the minuscule middle class citizenry is conservative by default. They represent a key constituency for Fidesz. The extreme centralization was accomplished exactly because (besides the fact that Fidesz loves to centralize) it was known that teachers will anyway support Fidesz in the end. Thus Fidesz is simply catering to the teachers who, well, do not care much about the roma, or at least they think they are underpaid for the extra job necessary to deal with them. It is a class issue (the roma are very poor), but also very much a cultural issue separate form the economic situation. New methodologies might help, but that “cannot seriously be expected” from an underpaid teacher. So this is democracy at work: teachers and their family support Fidesz and Jobbik and they do vote, the roma do not vote or they sell their votes to fidesz. This as we say in… Read more »

Guest
xavier
March 11, 2014 4:42 am

tappanch : Correction: after the party disqualifications, Fidesz is not #9, but #6, so a 3×6 format would benefit Fidesz most. click on “Országos listaállítások” at http://valasztas.hu/hu/ogyv2014/769/769_0_index.html —- Campaigning. When I was going to the airport, Fidesz billboards outnumbered Opposition by 4 to 1 along the way, in my counting. When I came back nine days later, Jobbik was everywhere. Elevator ads: only Jobbik and Fidesz, no Opposition. Brochures in the mailboxes: the same Re the campaigning. I guess the lefty financial backers (of which there aren’t many anyway) figure why throw good money after bad, if they anyway gonna lose badly? That said I really don’t get why the left is spending visibly less than Jobbik is? This is a bit of a conundrum to me, especially as Jobbik itself is not that rich. The issue with the campaigning is that it itself projects power, charisma, ability. Jobbik looks a stronger party just by virtue of being able to have so many billboards, constant mails and flyers, while the left seem weak and passive by comparison. This difference will inevitably result in Jobbik’s advantage among the undecideds, who figure what the hell, it does not matter anyway, I might… Read more »

Guest
Nádas
March 11, 2014 4:49 am

The other, unfortunate side of the coin is that most Hungarians would probably agree with the idea of segregated education. This is especially true in rural areas, where many Roma students are often disruptive and either unwilling or unable to perform at their grade level, or to conform to expected classroom standards. This often results in Gypsy children being “slowtracked,” that is, placed – segregated – into separate groups that receive indifferent instruction until they reach the age at which they can legally drop out of school.

Member
March 11, 2014 4:54 am

HiBoM :
OT, Steven, instead of spamming this thread why don’t you simply respond to what is written? The first part of his argument seems entirely reasonable. The second more debatable. And it is just narcissism in the extreme to imagine that we are so important that we could be influencing the election, hence Fidesz disruption!!! Get real mate!

First and last exchange with you “HiBoM”: I have no interest whatsoever in your personal remarks, whoever you are.

Guest
Bruno
March 11, 2014 6:01 am

There is one other issue. If 30% of the kids are roma they can be integrated, though with extra effort. This number was also invoked by the roma mayor of Ács.

If they represent more than about 30% of all kids, however, whites inevitably start to flight. That actually corresponds to the rate seen in the Amercian white flight phenomenon.

Whites in that case just decide that they do not want to be a(n almost) minority, when nationally they are the overwhelming majority. (This is exacerbated by the fact that many roma kids are requested to repeat the academic year which means some roma kids are significantly bigger in physical size than most of the class would be, which results in bullying etc.).

There is just no way to force whites in that case, they will always find some legal way (e.g. special home schooling) not to get integrated. What is problematic is if the state or even a – taxpayer supported – church assists these efforts.

That said, the state must to support integration as a matter of principle, because separation will inevitably lead to a very inferior education as it does.

Guest
Jaka
March 11, 2014 6:05 am

I think this site is far too valuable to be disrupted by trolls. Such as repeated Off topic comments. Public and theatrical declarations “I refuse to exchange words with this person”. This is like stomping feet at the ground, it is useless and not needed here. The obvious choice of simply not speaking to them without a theatrical public declaration. Is what a non-troll would do. Keep this site free of trolls please it is a valuable resource to us readers.

Guest
March 11, 2014 6:43 am

@Bruno: I agree entirely.

The “White Flight” is not inevitable though… But 1) The State has to stand by a strong position, which is exactly the opposite of what the Govt is doing as illustrated by this article – and 2) Parents have to set aside the ‘minority logics’ and self-organize because at the school level many issues are shared by children regardless of their identification with this or that… and here the weakness of Hungarian civil society certainly doesn’t help. A weakness actually fostered by the ideology of this Govt.

Guest
Razd Le a Rabsagot Magyarorszag!
March 11, 2014 7:31 am

In a clear support of Stevan Harnad, I don’t want to see any more anti-intellectual troll-postings here.

OTOH, it is always good to see the eloquent contributions of so many enlightened and freedom loving individuals, who can elevate our mood on the Hungarian Spectrum.

One day, we will be happy to witness the rise of a decent Hungarian leadership, in the best interest of a new, united, integrated, reformed, hardworking and honest Hungarian nation.

Guest
March 11, 2014 7:47 am

Tappanch wrote:
“Elevator ads: only Jobbik and Fidesz, no Opposition.
Brochures in the mailboxes: the same”

Here around Hévíz you also get only ads and flyers and billboards from Fidesz and Jobbik – the “real opposition” (left and LMP and the others) is nonexistent in public!

Why is that? Really strange in my eyes!

Guest
HiBoM
March 11, 2014 7:55 am

I mentioned this yesterday but would be interested to hear what anyone thinks of the Opposition videos, which I think is an opportunity badly messed up,

Guest
Xsas
March 11, 2014 8:11 am

Wolfi:

Zala county, where Hévíz is located, in general is probably the single most Fidesz supporting area. The entire Left will probably receive less than 20%, perhaps as low as 10-15% there. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of these areas, e.g. Bács-Kiskun on the other side of the Danube.

The left probably figured that there is no need to campaign there because it is anyway hopeless. They also probably think or start from the assumption that most of Budapest is theirs, although I am starting to have my doubts (i.e. undecideds will rather flock to Jobbik).

I would imagine that the left is more active in “battle ground” areas, or what leftist consider to be battle ground areas — because of the through gerrymander there are actually very few of those.

Or maybe the left just gave it up. Simicska does not help, for sure, and he is a virtual king in Veszprém and Zala, but flyers and activists could have been of some use. I dunno.

Guest
HiBoM
March 11, 2014 8:25 am

My impression is that the Opposition has simply given up. And as Jano said on another thread, when you can’t even create the illusion that you can and want to govern, you are unlikely to attract many votes. I thought the MSZP had employed some clever campaign strategists. Clearly not. Perhaps they are expecting a re-run of 2002 (and I’ve sometimes been inclined to expect this might be repeated) when quite out of the blue, following a poor campaign, people voted in private for change. But my fear now is that instead they will vote for Jobbik.

As things stand, I think it quite likely that the next parliament will be 80% Jobbik Fidesz and 20% others. What a prospect.

Guest
March 11, 2014 8:36 am

@Some1 put a link to an article on Roma students in Canada; whereby, due to the dedication of the teachers and the Roma students, they managed to integrate well.
Hence, it is very disturbing that in their home country they don’t get the same opportunities.

—-

Re : Elevator / Campaign ads

Quite a number of Jobbik campaign posters could be seen around my city centre. Then something happened last Sunday. The word “Nazi” had been sprayed on all of them!!

While in our elevator, it is good to see that Unity, LMP, Jobbik and Fidesz all managed to advertise on it. But still no newsletter from Unity in the mailbox. Mesterházy will be speaking in one of the hotels here though.

Guest
petofi
March 11, 2014 9:13 am

HiBoM :
I mentioned this yesterday but would be interested to hear what anyone thinks of the Opposition videos, which I think is an opportunity badly messed up,

This kind of questioning chillingly echoes that of Mr. Paul.

Guest
petofi
March 11, 2014 9:17 am

What’s more, Mr. HiBoM, the opposition to Fidesz and the reason why Hungarian Spectrum would be important to them, is not a differing policy but the display of Independence. Individuality and Independence must be stamped out throughout the land…(Get it?)

Guest
HiBoM
March 11, 2014 9:26 am

petofi, please stop spamming this thread with your incoherent nonsense. There is an interesting discussion about segregation in Gypsy education (although with your track record of comments about the Roma, you might be wise to avoid it) as well as OT discussion about the opposition campaign which is what my video comment was contributing to, so why not ponder these issues rather than make a fool of yourself?

Guest
An
March 11, 2014 9:33 am

@petofi: “This kind of questioning chillingly echoes that of Mr. Paul.”

You are right, it does.

Guest
Jano
March 11, 2014 9:36 am

An: Did you see those videos though? It’s OT but I think it’s a valid point.

Guest
An
March 11, 2014 9:40 am

@Jano: It may be, but I don’t like HiBoM setting the agenda for this blog. And he is persistently bringing this up, like for the third time?

Guest
HiBoM
March 11, 2014 9:42 am

Second time. And use your eyes, besides the on topic discussion, the comments, as per usual, has evolved its own discussion, this time about the opposition campaign visibility. So my question is perfectly on topic with respect to the off-topic discussion!

Guest
Otto
March 11, 2014 9:49 am

enuff : @Some1 put a link to an article on Roma students in Canada; whereby, due to the dedication of the teachers and the Roma students, they managed to integrate well. Hence, it is very disturbing that in their home country they don’t get the same opportunities. —- Re : Elevator / Campaign ads Quite a number of Jobbik campaign posters could be seen around my city centre. Then something happened last Sunday. The word “Nazi” had been sprayed on all of them!! While in our elevator, it is good to see that Unity, LMP, Jobbik and Fidesz all managed to advertise on it. But still no newsletter from Unity in the mailbox. Mesterházy will be speaking in one of the hotels here though. Enuff: There is a huge fallacy in the Canadian Roma success stories. The emigrants are always a completely different (self-selected) group of any nation and thus of the Roma in this case. They always represent the most entrepreneurial, open-to-changes, determined-to-succeed sub-group. Even to be in a position to contemplate overseas immigration one needs to be a part of the citizenry (polgárosult). The overseas emigration to Canada however must be differentiated from the still essentially itinerant moving… Read more »

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