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Life now a nightmare at Mukachevo's Hungarian school

The nightmare started a month ago, not only for teachers, but for the entire Rakoczi Ferenc II school every single day, a teacher at the school in Mukachevo (Munkacs), Ukraine told Magyar Nemzet referring to the atmosphere of Ukrainianization present since the start of the new school year. The teaching staff is constantly fighting the newly appointed Ukrainian school management, who are systematically carrying out the death sentence of the Hungarian institution in Transcarpathia, on the orders of the anti-Hungarian city administration.

2023. 09. 29. 14:26
Kárpátalja Ungvár Mirkó István Fotó: Mirkó István
Vélemény hírlevélJobban mondva- heti vélemény hírlevél - ahol a hét kiemelt témáihoz füzött személyes gondolatok összeérnek, részletek itt.

Implementing the Ukrainianization playbook

They are not their own masters, and are carrying out the orders of the city administration. They are simply following the script they are given, Pal Popovics, an IT teacher at the Rakoczi Ferenc II secondary school in Mukachevo, said of the new school leadership at the Hungarian educational institution in Ukraine.  As we wrote earlier, a Ukrainian principal and deputy principals were appointed to head the school in Transcarpathia at the beginning of the academic year - despite the ongoing legal case regarding the unexpected replacement of the school's previous, Hungarian head.

In essence, they told us what we didn't want to hear: that their plan is to Ukrainianize our school, since this is Ukraine, and you have to speak the state language, and obey the country's laws,

Mr Popovics explained the overt goal of the new management. According to the teacher, the plans cite the Ukrainian education law, which states that there are no ethnic schools, only Ukrainian ones, and that next year all subjects - at least the majority of them - must be taught in the Ukrainian language.

In 2017, the Ukrainian parliament introduced a draft law, which made it practically impossible to teach indigenous national minorities in their mother tongue. According to the proposal, students are to have twenty percent of the subjects in the fifth grade taught in Ukrainian, with gradually increasing proportions in each subsequent grade, until eighty percent of subjects in the tenth grade are presented in Ukrainian. The draft's Article 7, which states these stipulations was originally to enter into force in 2023, but
 

 as a result of the heated debate over language use, Kiev approved so many changes that the transition to the Ukrainian language has been postponed by one year, until September 1, 2024.

At the same time, The informatics teacher explained that the Ukrainian school management interpreted this to mean that because next September all teaching would be solely in Ukrainian, the gradual transition is to be implemented during the course of the current academic year in the Mukachevo institution.

Munkács
 The Rakoczi Ferenc II Secondary school in Mukachevo, battling Ukrainianization. Photo: Istvan Mirko

 

There are some hurdles before the death sentence

"We started the school year on September 1 with a class timetable that was suitable for everyone, and a week later we were told it was no good. They made a new one and "accidentally" omitted all the Hungarian history lessons," the teacher said. After explaining that the staff could not teach according to this timetable, the school leaders were forced to back out - but then they came up with a new timetable, which was again no good, and the tug of war has been going on for four weeks, the teacher revealed. "We constantly fight, there is no cooperation, they have been placed here and instructed to carry out the school's death sentence," said Pal Popovics.

Since this nightmare started a month ago the everyday life of teachers and the whole school has been revolving around the issue. This is what the staff talks about during the breaks but the parents and the students also feel it,

he said when asked how the changes affect their daily lives. He explained that, for the time being, teaching remains the same as before, as there is no legal means to introduce the changes during the current school year. There are still a few checks in the system which can be applied by the teachers, he added. For example, changes to the annual plan need the approval of the teaching staff, and other issues require the consent of the union.

 

Can the cold war end with litigation?

The new school management is aware that the institution’s fate depends on whether or not there will be some kind of change at the municipality of Mukachevo, Pal Popovics noted. Mukachevo’s municipality leadership is notorious for anti-Hungarian actions. Last October, Munkachevo Mayor Andriy Baloha and his influential father, MP Viktor Baloha, removed the statue of the Turul bird, a national symbol of Hungarians, from the castle of Mukachevo. In January this year, with the help of police, they had flags removed from Hungarian establishments in the settlements of Fornos and Dercen, two Hungarian-majority localities in the Mukachevo region.

The informatics teacher was also asked about the status of the legal proceedings in the cases launched by the school’s dismissed director, Istvan Schink, who does not give statements due to his involvement in the litigation.
 

After seventeen years heading the school, the former director was dismissed this spring without any grounded justification. His dismissal sparked general outcry and following a court's ruling he was reinstated, but dismissed again three weeks later. Istvan Schink's two dismissals are being heard in two separate proceedings. He won the case related to his first sacking at first and second instance, but the case of his second dismissal will be brought before the court later. "We hope that in a month's time the case will be before the court, because every day is a cold war at our school," Pal Popovics said. 
 

Cover photo: Teaching in Hungarian language in Transcarpathia (Photo: Istvan Mirko)

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