A speech by Ildikó Orosz, President of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association on the XXVIIth general assembly of the organisation

The Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association held its general assembly on 15. December in Beregszász. The Kárpátalja.ma gives a full version of the speech of Ildiko Orosz, president of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association, rector of the Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute.

Dear religious and secular dignitaries, dear guests, dear General Assembly!

The time has come for us to sum up the work of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association in 2018. The last year was filled with struggle about Article 7 of the Law on Education accepted in 2017. There was a precedent in 2017: the natural process and condition that has been on in the region of Transcarpathia for centuries has now been interrupted: the natural right of the minorities for the education in their native language has been restricted. The continuity of this right has been described in a book by the staff of the Hodinka Antal Research Institute, who also debunked the false allegations that the media in Europe has been overwhelmed with in recent years, according to which this right is not guaranteed in the surrounding countries, only Ukraine was so gracious and allowed the minorities to provide and receive education in their native language. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Venice Commission found violations in the law, and the President undertook to implement the decision of the Venice Commission, there has been no progress in this direction. The parliament has not yet voted in favor of the amendments required by the Venice Commission. There is nothing to be surprised about, since we have a written agreement with Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine about ensuring our minority rights and protecting them if the Transcarpathian Hungarians support him in the presidential election. The Hungarians of Transcarpathia gave about seventy thousand votes in the election, but in the past 4 years the president did exactly the opposite of what he had promised. Our constitutional right, the possibility of free choice of language of instruction in the whole process of education has been taken away. When we approached him with more than 60,000 signatures and a request to veto the law, he no longer remembered his signed promise.

It is even sadder that instead of a constructive dialogue what the Ministry of Education and Science organized and managed was rather a sort of sludge wrestling we had to participate in. Several rounds took place during the year, where they wanted to convince us and explain to us that we did not understand the law properly. After we asked the right questions it turned out that we do know the Ukrainian law well, and that what is written and what the law-making fathers intended is, in fact, what we cannot accept. In this case, the other side of the record was played, claiming that they were guided by good intentions and that we should believe that it is impossible for non-Ukrainians to learn the Ukrainian language by a method different from what they recommend. When we came up with new, valid arguments, they made the impression as if they were accepting our arguments, and then tried to have their slightly reworded suggestions accepted by us. For example, during the recent negotiations, it was accepted that European standards should be taken into account in the teaching of Ukrainian language and literature, and that competence-based rules should be developed and provide the basis for testing before graduation. They arranged a meeting where they presented their proposals. When we read the proposals more thoroughly, it turned out that they intend to use the existing bilingual education used in international practice, which in the European countries is generally chosen by prestigious parents for their children voluntarily in the majority of state elite schools. There are such high schools in Hungary as well, where only the language of instruction is taught for one year for the students to be able to learn a part of the subjects in this language the following year. But it is optional, so that the child’s native language rights are not violated. The ministry’s next step is to try to present its educational order wrapped in gold paper and put under our Christmas tree, trying to convince us that it contains the candy we want, while there is a cork plug inside the packaging. It is as if we are not considered and treated as usual children, and certainly not state-forming, tax-paying citizens with constitutional rights. This is also indicated by the decree in which the Deputy Minister realized the promise made at the Esztergom hall at our institute in the spring of 2018. According to prime-minister Groysman’s decree, in 2019, for non-Slavic native speakers and Crimean Tatar graduates, the upper-level Ukrainian test will have a lower minimum grade than the one for the Ukrainian-speaking or Slavic native graduates.

This can be positively acknowledged, since eventually the ministry kept its promise in at least one question. It is necessary to note that the reasoning behind the regulation is not to reduce the requirements for equal opportunities, because Ukrainian language and literature tests are adapted to the level of the Ukrainian native speakers in Ukrainian schools and those who have been admitted to the faculties of Ukrainian studies, so those whose native language is not Ukrainian and whose language of instruction was Ukrainian as well are at a disadvantage. The grade limit, according to the amendment, was changed to ensure the rights of those with special educational needs. After all, minorities have specific abilities because they have a specific native language and culture. In this sense, it would not be offensive if we were not familiar with the relevant interpretation of the law on education. According to the law, this category includes individuals with mental or physical disabilities who have been injured at some level. So now, not only Professor Farion, but also the Ukrainian government led by Groysman thinks that non-Ukrainian native minorities are mentally handicapped because they speak and think in a different language, and this has now been included in a government decision. We find it outrageous and offensive, but we do not intend to give up the reduced grade limit. We are not giving up on our rights, despite the fact that certain political forces and factors who do not openly reveal their faces do everything to intimidate us, drive us away from our homeland, prevent us from participating in public life, and to push us to become a marginal factor of the Ukrainian state. This conclusion can also be made from the results of the research conducted by the Lehoczky Tivadar Research Center at our Institute on the basis of Ukrainian news sources and laws. In the research titled Observation and Monitoring of Minorities, the acts and atrocities against the Transcarpathian Hungarian community were documented in the period between 2014 and April 2018. The study recorded 182 cases of anti-Hungarian manifestations. In most cases our community is accused of not being able to speak Ukrainian, mostly in the media, and various sources, mostly in Russian.

Transcarpathian Hungarian district officials, county officials, government employees, and state employees respect the state language and learned it without receiving any state aid and support, while the majority of Ukrainian officials speak Russian everywhere including the media. This double standard characterizes the country, so to end it we must continue to stand up for our own opinion.

Today, we are also discussing a framework plan for Ukrainian as a state language for minorities, developed with the help of the Berehove branch office of the Pedagogical Association, the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, the Regional Training Institute, and we will approve the version we are submitting to the Ministry. We have sent the framework plan to you for revision, on December 12th the Presidency summarized the proposals, incorporated them into the program, so the version in the folder reflects the position of the Transcarpathian Hungarian experts. If we approve it, please discuss it again with the teaching staff and send your opinions to the ministry so that we can represent them during the next negotiations with the greatest support possible.

But let’s stop complaining and being angry, let’s talk about what took our native-language education system forward this year.

During the school year, thanks to the ministerial negotiations, the first graders were able to learn the spelling and reading based on the Hungarian alphabet book and workbooks. With the support of EMMI (Ministry of Human Resources of Hungary) and the Consulate General of Hungary in Berehove, books and workbooks were delivered to every school. Thank you! It is now up to us to provide our children with the knowledge they would receive in Hungary. That is why I request that the Berehove branch office of the Regional Training Institute adapt the curriculum to the alphabetical order of the books on the one hand and to organize a training on the use of these books.

The first part of the textbook on the history of the Hungarian nation has been published and the second part is in printing. When it is ready, let’s have a presentation and the authors should draw the attention of the colleagues to the possibilities of its application. Our childrens’ magazine, the Irka and our professional journal Public Education have turned 25. They are published due to the support from the Hungarian State Secretariat for National Policy. The State Secretariat for National Policy supported the full reconstruction of the Teachers’House in Berehove, which we were able to deliver before Teachers’ Day. Consider it to be a professional house/home of the Hungarian teachers in Transcarpathia, fill it with impressions and use it appropriately.

In 2018, the first phase of the kindergarten program in the Transcarpathian basin took place. The program is carried out with the assistance of the Bethlen Gábor foundation and is led by the governmental office of the State Secretariat for National Policy responsible for the cooperation of the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg region of Hungary with Transcarpathia. In the first phase of the program, according to the decision of the Hungarian government Transcarpatia received 2 197 326 135 HUF. This amount includes the 360 629 000 HUF received by the Transcarpathian Roman Catholic Church, 182 020 000 HUF for the Ugocsa district of the Transcarpathian Greek Catholic Church, as well as 660 677 135 HUF received by the Transcarpathian Reformed Church for their kindergarten projects, and also 994 000 000 HUF for the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association for the development of Ukrainian state kindergartens with Hungarian language of instruction in Transcarpathia. 50 educational establishments were refurbished partially or completely within the program. As a part of this program, in the settlements where the institutionalized Hungarian-speaking education had been eliminated decades ago, but some of the population is Hungarian, we plan to purchase buildings to start Hungarian kindergartens. In the first phase of the kindergarten development program we purchased buildings in Serednie, Alsókerepec, Bakosh, Aknaszlatina, Terebesfehérpatak, and Eszeny (where we purchased the fundament of the new kindergarten the local village council began to build). As a part of the program, we continued the reconstruction and transformation of the cultural center in Kisgejőc purchased by the Pedagogical Association for the local kindergarten and primary school after they had to move out from the building owned by the reformed church where they had been operating until September. The total cost of the purchases and reconstructions is 79 838 877 hryvnias, i.e. 844 587 720 HUF. Due to the support 98 kindergartens with Hungarian language of instruction or at least one Hungarian-speaking group received computer equipment: laptops with 55 GB of Hungarian folk tales, projectors and multifunctional printers (copier, scanner and printer) for a total value of 2 909 768 hryvnias, i.e. 30 778 250 HUF. We also managed to replace the furniture partially or completely in 47 kindergartens, for a total value of 6 130 818 hryvnias, i.e. 65 922 774 HUF. The kitchen equipment was replaced in 30 educational institutions for a total value of 3 628 402 hryvnias, i.e.38 383 603 HUF. 10 kindergartens received new outdoor toys and pavilions with a total value of 735 160 hryvnias, i.e.7 904 946 HUF.

Who benefits from this and all the Hungarian support? According to the Ukrainian media this is good only for the Transcarpathian Hungarians. First of all, we are Ukrainian tax-paying citizens, so Ukrainian tax-payers receive support funded by Hungarian tax-payers. This support is aimed for tasks that should be carried out by the Ukrainian state, so the Ukrainian tax-payers are being supported directly, while the Ukrainian state benefits from it indirectly. The burden of renovation is being taken off the shoulders of the Ukrainian state, thus relieving the Ukrainian budget of the funds that should be used for this purpose. The saved funds can be reused by the Ukrainian state for other purposes, perhaps for the renovation of Ukrainian-language kindergartens or schools. Thanks to the modernization and renovation of the institutions, not only the conditions improve, but also the costs of maintaining the institution, the utility costs become lower, which again relieves the Ukrainian state budget. In the process of renovation, the construction is carried out on the basis of contracts with Ukrainian taxpayers, thus generating additional revenue by retaining and creating jobs. The construction companies are all taxed on the basis of their income, and they pay their employment, military and other taxes after their employees. Employees pay the personal income tax, thus increasing the state budget and the local budgets of Ukraine. Companies purchase materials and equipment from Ukrainian dealers and factories, thus contributing indirectly to the development of the Ukrainian economy and the retention of workforce. These companies are also taxed, and the workers there pay taxes, which once again increases the Ukrainian state budget. Each of the Hungarian state programs arrives in the country officially, on the basis of contracts, they are converted to the Ukrainian currency on the state stock exchange, so they also provide income for the banking sector, which again is received by the Ukrainian budget. If we add up all the taxes at different levels and of different types, which directly or indirectly increase the Ukrainian public finances, it would make up 60-70 percent of the subsidies. Another very important factor due to which the Ukrainian state administration would have to be grateful for this type of foreign aid is that it greatly contributes to the ’whitening’ of the Ukrainian economy, there are no bribes and illegal refunds, the whole process is traceable and transparent, and all the funds are directly or indirectly transferred to the Ukrainian budget. Is this what some people complain about?

The basic school program developed by the Pedagogical Association and approved in the academic year 2016-2017 has been launched; also the Eastern Partnership Program continues, thanks to the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The programs will be carried out at our schools with the participation of the Charity Foundation for the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, to whose president László Brenzovics, and director Ilona Vass we are grateful and kindly request them to inform us about the process.

Anyone who stands in one spot will sink sooner or later, especially if the soil below is swampy. Starting from this wise folk thought, the Pedagogical Association does not want to sink, but to develop its institutional network to make it as attractive as possible for every Hungarian in Transcarpathia. We also think of those who probably do not speak Hungarian at home, but love their grandparents and want to talk to them in this language, or if their ancestors are not alive anymore, to learn the language to honor their memory. In the light of this, our association conducted a comprehensive survey among students in our schools, about school dropouts, school changes, and needs. Based on the survey, we have developed a comprehensive concept that consists of several elements and several programs, for which the funds are not available yet, but those who do not dream and do not plan, who have no purpose, are unable to accomplish anything. The essence of the program is that, beyond the development of kindergartens, which is the first and founding link of education, the native language level guaranteed by the Ukrainian Law on Education would consist of the strengthening of the elementary school. For parents, the attractive elementary school is the one that is close to the family’s mentality in its circumstances and content, strives for quality education, and takes into account parents’ ideas within the pedagogical norms and principles. In elementary schools, we plan not only to renovate the existing ones, but also to extend the network, especially in the settlements where Hungarian preschool groups are now starting, but there is no possibility to continue the education in the native language, because there has been no Hungarian school there since 1944. One of the elements of the concept is, of course, the strengthening of general and secondary education, as well as inclusion as a separate program. The inclusion would be necessary primarily in schools where Roma students have been in the majority in recent years, but they are Hungarian-speaking, i.e. roma-ugric students. In addition to renovating these schools, more attention should be paid to the acquisition of professional practices in order to integrate and develop the students there, to reduce the knowledge gap between the social classes and thus to continue to ensure social balance in our region. In the case of these programs, as in the past 30 years, we cannot count on the Ukrainian state. According to our previous experiences, the reasons our requests are rejected remain the same: as a poor, young state at war they are happy if they can fulfill the basic functions of the state; such special aims as the demands and requirements of the minorities will be supported if the state is strengthened. We wish this to happen as soon as possible, preferably in our lifetime. We do not want anything else, no more and no less than any parent and educator in the country and anywhere in the world: to provide high quality education for our children and to those we are responsible for. That is why we have only one choice: to turn to God of whom we know from Széchényi’s words that he will never help directly, always indirectly. So far, God’s indirect aid has always come from the motherland. That’s why we thank the Hungarian State, the leaders of the state, who, for more than a decade now, have treated us as their children, and have been doing everything for us. We thank the Hungarian government for embracing our initiatives, giving hope and a future for the children studying in our schools, standing up for us despite the greatest pressure. We thank the Hungarian taxpayers, who also consider us as brothers, have not abandoned us, and do not regret providing support for us, which we probably will never be able to repay, but we promise to use it for the benefit of our nation and for our common future. We ask the Lord to help our Hungarian nation, all its members everywhere in the world, primarily the Hungarian State, to develop at least at the same pace and momentum as in the past years for our better future. In the spirit of these thoughts, please pray at Christmas, which will bring light to all of us. We wish a blessed Christmas, a peaceful, happy, and successful new year to all of us.