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Hungarian Parents Keep Kids Home to Protest Education System

A protester holds a banner of the Teachers' Trade Union of Miskolc, during a teachers’ strike by Herman Otto Grammar School in Miskolc, 173 kms northeast of Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 3, 2016.

Thousands of Hungarian parents kept their children home from school on Monday to protest the government's education policies.

Reports from across the country indicated that attendance was affected by the protest, especially in high schools. At least 34,000 people had joined the protest's Facebook page. Two weeks ago, tens of thousands attended a teachers' rally in Budapest to protest education reforms that have included extreme centralization, increased administrative tasks for teachers and a lack of choice in textbooks.

“This action was a first warning,” protest organizer Krisztina Puskas told The Associated Press. “If the government does not react to our proposals, we will continue.”

Puskas said she had received confirmation from over 250 schools that many parents had kept their children at home.

Even though even some said it was wrong to involve children in the protests, Puskas said her appeal was aimed at parents, whom she urged to talk with their children about the issues at their schools.

“Parents have to defend their children from the bad education system,” Puskas said.

Education officials stressed Monday was a school day like any other and said parents had other venues, like school forums, to express their criticisms.

On February 6, the Hungarian government dismissed the official in charge of public education and vowed to reduce centralization efforts. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, meanwhile, has tried to cast teachers' grievances as just a salary dispute, even though that has not been a key factor in the protests.