Secular Hungary

Secular Hungary

No school for non-Catholic kids

It was bound to happen sooner or later somewhere: in the small town of Kecel (Bács-Kiskun county), there will be only catholic education from next September, according to the news site Index. Though the local government claims that the population is happy with their decision, as 90% of the inhabitants are catholic anyway (according to the 2001 census it’s actually 78% Catholics, with 11% refusing to answer and 4% nones), the headmaster and parents found out about this by chance: through reading an article that quoted the bishop mentioning that the Kecel school will be theirs from September.

While parents’ fears in similar takeovers are sometimes calmed down by insisting that sectarian schools will be inclusive, this seems to be not quite the case in Kecel. Pupils will have to attend mass and participate in religious instruction, and while the inscription form provides some choice of Christian denominations, the choice is limited to religious instruction (’hittan’). Diching the lesson may lead to expulsion. And any parent not wishing to have their child attend the Catholic school, is required to explain their reasons in writing, and the kids aged 6 years would have to travel at least 15 km by bus to school in a town half the size of Kecel, or even further to Kalocsa or Kiskörös.

Teachers were told that becoming a church employee means cheaper gas (widely used for heating) and discount phone subscriptions. They are offered a work contract on condition that they accept to teach in the Catholic spirit and are willing to attend mass at least three times a year. As the new director told one of the teachers, sitting through mass doesn’t harm anyone, and teachers anyway have to participate in events they don’t like. Asked by the reporter what he was alluding to, the director said ’for example the parades of the communist era’.

The school has 700 pupils, and parents have started to collect signatures for a local ballott. They will need 1500, but for the vote to be valid, 50% of the population would have to participate, which has never happened according to the mayor. Also, Kecel is a small town with 9000 inhabitants, where everyone knows everyone. And some parents are afraid that for their opposition their kids will be ostracised.



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