Resistance to a school closing in Budapest

Can you imagine a developed country anywhere in the world where closing a high school is subject to cabinet approval? It’s hard to imagine, but there is one that lies “in the heart of Europe.” Of course, I’m talking about Hungary, where unfortunately “the heart” is often missing from decisions reached by the country’s political leaders.

Those of you who have been following Hungarian politics already know that I’m talking about the Raoul Wallenberg School, which teaches “human studies,” such as health care, social work, and special education. The school trains healthcare workers (nurses, dental assistants, pharmacy assistants, ambulance nurses, etc.), social care providers (social assistants, child caregivers), and special education assistants.  The school was completely renovated ten years ago and cost 3 billion forints. The money, as usual, came from the European Union and, this time, also from Sweden. Since the year 2004 the school has borne the name of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who in 1944 saved several thousand Jewish citizens from certain death in Auschwitz and other extermination camps in Germany. The school has developed close relationships with schools in other European countries. They have yearly student exchange programs, scholarships, teachers’ visits, and conferences. All in all, “Raoul,” as everybody calls the school, is considered to be the best of its kind in Hungary.

So, why did the Orbán government decide to close it and scatter its 1,200 students and 70 teachers among six different vocational schools that don’t teach the subjects Wallenberg specializes in? The schools designated to receive “Raoul” students teach such trades as bricklaying, carpentry, and plumbing. All this was decided in two minutes at a cabinet meeting on March 18. In early April the principal of the school was told that, as of the end of the school year sometime in June, the Raoul Wallenberg School will be no more. And, she was warned, she cannot tell a soul about the school closing. No reason for the sudden decision was given.

It didn’t take long before everybody knew that the building that housed the Wallenberg School will be taken over by the new Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem/National Civil Service University. The expanding new university needs the space. The next victim most likely will be the Museum of Natural Sciences. The administration of the Wallenberg School knew that sooner or later they would have to evacuate the building, but they felt safe until at least April 30, 2016, because the EU grants Hungary received required that they remain in the same building for at least fifteen years. Well, the Hungarian government decided otherwise.

The way the government handled this case is typical. First, decisions are reached in secrecy, so there is no opportunity for those affected by the decisions to express their views. Second, the authorities don’t bother with rules and regulations. In the case of a contemplated school closing, there must be discussions with school boards, parents, teacher’s unions, etc. Of course, none of these people was consulted. Third, it really doesn’t matter what objections are voiced. The government goes full steam ahead anyway. Fourth, if there is trouble, as there was in this case, they send in a man who has no authority to make any decision. Fifth, they would like, if at all possible, to keep the media away. In this case, they also forbade the principal to talk to reporters. And finally, the last word is always that of the highest authority, who is Viktor Orbán himself. Even the minister of education cannot decide on a simple school closing without “the approval of the government.” What a country.

But sometimes the government meets stiff resistance and is forced to make concessions. It took about a week, but it now looks as if the Raoul Wallenberg School will continue as a unit, we just don’t know where. Since the city of Budapest will have only a couple of months to ready a building to receive a school currently equipped with special classrooms and equipment to teach healthcare subjects, it is hard to imagine that the school can open its doors in September. But, still, school officials are relieved and grateful. How did the administration of the school manage to win against the almighty state? Everybody involved refused to obey the order to keep quiet, and they all acted together: school officials, students, teachers, parents, and trade unions.

Heart and Sul of Raoul I will be a student of Raoul as long as I live

Heart of Raoul, Soul of Raoul–I will be a student of Raoul as long as I live

Although the principal was forbidden to speak, the deputy principal bravely went to ATV and told her story. She was impressive and fearless. The journalists, who initially were not allowed to attend a meeting of students, parents, and teachers with an official of the Klebelsberg Kunó Intézményfenntartó Központ (KLIK), the mammoth office in charge of all Hungarian elementary and high schools, ignored the instructions and gave vivid descriptions of the tumultuous gathering of at least a thousand people. Brave and surprisingly articulate fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds barraged the hapless KLIK representative with hundreds of questions and criticisms until he himself admitted that he doesn’t agree with the decision. Leaders of both teacher’s unions were present and threatened KLIK with a law suit. After the meeting, it became clear that this crowd could not be easily appeased. The closing of the Wallenberg School would be another scandal.

And we mustn’t forget about the outside help the school’s defenders received. The ELTE students who had already twice demonstrated against the government’s trampling on the autonomy of the universities decided to add to their own grievances the unfair treatment of the Raoul Wallenberg School. Their last demonstration ended in front of the Wallenberg School.

Both the Mazsihisz, the umbrella organization of Hungarian Jewish communities, and the Raoul Wallenberg Society and Foundation also raised their voices in defense of the school. After all, this is the only school in the country that bears the name of Wallenberg. The Raoul Wallenberg Society was especially upset because in the last six years the Society, together with the Holocaust Memorial Center and the Wallenberg School, had organized a program called “Was it a long time ago? Where was it?” If you want to know more about the program, take a look at the Society’s online site. It sounds fascinating. Clearly, in the Wallenberg School students learned more than the normally prescribed subjects. The school took seriously the message of Wallenberg’s activities in Hungary.

It is not over yet, but Zoltán Balog showed up at the school yesterday and announced the change of plans. It is hard to tell why he decided to give in. Perhaps because his hands are full of other troubles concerning healthcare and the so-called reforms of higher education? Or was it the united front formed by teachers, students, parents, and trade union leaders? Was he worried about abolishing a school that bears Raoul Wallenberg’s name? Perhaps a combination of all of these things.

People are increasingly pushing back against the government and perhaps standing a little taller.

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Such a bunch of gangsters…


C’mon folks, let’s try to understand Orban-think:

1) The school bears the name of a jew-lover;

2) Killing the school is a swipe at the Swedes;

3) Killing the school is a madhatter’s revenge at the EU–regardless of their rules for financing–for having let the cat out of the bag with respect to highway finance…or the lack of it.

(Character is Destiny; and who’s to say that Hungarians don’t deserve everything coming down the chute at them….?)



The government by the shameless do not know limits:

A fidesz apparatchik started a piano factory. He did not need his own money. The government gave 217 million, the National Bank 60 million for development, and the government just bought 10 new pianos for 76 million a piece ($272,000) (the price is more than double that of a Fazioli F-308 or of a Steinway D-274, which is $130,000)



Who the **** needs those pianos? Nobody will use them and nobody needs them. After all Mozart etc wrote their pieces for traditional piano, that’s what people want to hear. Of course this is just the usual looting, stealing.


Actually, you are wrong: Mozart did not write music for the modern piano, the form of which stopped evolving in about 1905. It is odd that a particular type of Steinway is now the standard piano and Mozart never quite sounds right on it. The development of this new piano is a perfectly justifiable enterprise and shouldn’t be criticised for its fundamental ambition. However, I do strongly feel it is not the role of the state to finance such a project, nor given the way the state operates in Hungary, would I be surprised if the project has not been hijacked to fill other people’s projects. But that is a separate issue.

Incidentally, I would expect such a piano to cost twice a Steinway if they only produce ten copies. But that presupposes it is being made with the care that a Steinway is and I have no means of knowing if that is the case.


@MusicLover, spot on and well said. (And I too (sometimes) prefer Mozart on the fortepiano, though I do like the piano as an alternative to the harpsichord for (some) Bach.) It will be interesting to see whether the PannonPiano catches on, but a great pity that it is now historically tainted with Orban’s opportunism and corruption.)


Incidentally, if you have ever seen Bogányi play a Steinway, he uses the soft pedal far more than most pianists, precisely because he finds the conventional piano too harsh at times for his own style. So again, I can’t fault the enterprise on those grounds. And they persuaded a good American jazz pianist to have a go and he was also very enthusiastic about its sound qualities. It is an interesting experiment but of course, if those behind it were not Fidesz supporters (either explicitly or in Bogányi’s case, implicitly) then it would never have got off the drawing board. Which will make it tainted historically, even if it does prove to be an interesting innovation.


Anybody ever hear this one in action?
Debussy, or something else, anyone?
And this one already working since awhile.

Looks disturbingly similar. Do Hungary will end up in a new Pal Schmitt experience, this time on piano?


Great fight, well done for sall students, teachers, and others involved.


Viktor Orban’s Vintage Odium

Hundreds of immigrants perish in the Mediterranean.

Orban, in need of another popular distraction from his imploding pyramid of corruption, the populace clamoring for referenda on his mounting misgovernment, offers them one:

Out of compassion for the drowned victims, a Hungarian referendum on mobilizing the army to keep immigrants out.

And the most pathetic thing of all: This kind of cynical, mean-spirited ruse plays well with his populace.




Thank you, Eva and Piri. What an encouraging post.


My granddaughter, 8years old ,attends a high achieving class at the Neptune Általános Iskola in Budapest and when her mother went to collect her from school on Friday 11 April she was told that parents had to come to a meeting at the school on Tuesday 14 April as the school was being closed on 30 May. It is being given over to a Chinese Hungarian school. Neither teachers nor parents were consulted and no provision has been made for the pupils at any other schools all of which are a considerable distance away from the current school. They were told that if they wanted to petition they had to have the petition with the authorities by 10.00 the next morning with signatures of all parents but that it wouldn’t make any difference as the decision had already been made.
What a disgraceful way to treat children their teachers and parents but sadly it is indicative of the way Orban’s government treat their citizens, with contempt.


When I was a kid – well, now you’ll know that I was a kid once too, against all odds – the “year” or the termin used to end sometimes in the first part of June.

I wonder, who is in his/her right mind will reorganise a school mere weeks before the summer break?!!

What could be more important than the destiny of those children who is the future of Hungary – you like it or not?

Would it be that someone sold the building and accepted the terms, regardless of the consequences?

These people really deserve some kind of disciplinary treatment, à la Kim Jong-un…


Sometimes I get the feeling that Orbán and his mafiosi want to show the world that they can get away with anything …
From the axe murderer to school closings – I want it and I get it!

Megalomania at its best!
Nero comes to mind …


The megalomania belongs to Orban alone: the others do it only for the gelt…but how disgustingly amoral can they get.

Orban deserves a mental hospital; the others deserve harsh justice–no society is in need of their presence.


Mental hospital is to the sick and helpless on their own.

Megalomaniac tyranns supposed to follow the steps of Mussolini and Ceaușescu, all the way long.
That’s what waiting for the Viktor, the question only the ‘when’, there is no ‘if’.
By other words: “sure, darling!”


A bit OT – but not too much:
The World Happiness Report 2015 was just published – Hungary made it as the country no 104, just behind Lebanon and Greece:
There surely will be interpretations and analysises of this soon

The first 20 countries here:
Germany didn’t make it, it’s no 26 – probably because of the Eastern former Communist part …


A bit OT:
The World Happiness Index 2015 by country has just been published – of course one should take things like that with a grain of salt …
Switzerland is no 1, followed by Iceland (?), Denmark, Norway, Canada …
Hungary is at place 104, behind Greece.
Germany is 26 – probably because of our Eastern former Communist part.
You also can find the complete report (pdf, 120 pages) by gogling …



Sorry for being obtrusive – two of my comments disappeared (actually they are just two versions of what I wanted to report: The World Happiness Index) and now I find them “awaiting moderation”.
Is this a new strategy?


Thanks, Eva!
And now something even more OT but fascinating (at least to me as a mathematician – retired):
Here’s “A Visit to Hungarian Mathematics” from 1988 which starts with Bolyai, continues with the times of the “Ausgleich” and then tells how world famous people barely managed to survive WW2 and the “Communist” terror later – fascinating maybe even if you aren’t a maths expert.
It also contains all those anecdotes that I already told about Poincaré, Fejér and Turán and how Jews were discriminated against. For these at least you need no maths knowledge …


A book to explain what went wrong in Hungary?
The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, 1825-1945
Andrew C. Janos
“The author develops his theme by examining a century of Hungarian economic, social, and political history. During the period under consideration, the country witnessed attempts to transplant liberal institutions from the West, the corruption of these institutions into a “neo-corporatist” bureaucratic state, and finally, the rise of diverse Left and Right radical movements as much in protest against this institutional corruption as against the prevailing global division of labor and economic inequality.

Pointing to significant analogies between the Hungarian past and the plight of the countries of the Third World today, this work should be of interest not only to the specialist on East European politics, but also to students of development, dependency, and center-periphery relations in the contemporary world.”
Maybe some of the ideas are still valid for the description of today’s mafia state aka Fidesz Hungary?