In the case of unaccompanied children, the law provides for the right to education. The reception centre and guardians struggle with actively assisting children to enrol in schools and helping them to attend classes. Unaccompanied children who have been granted international protection are enrolled in the mainstream Hungarian child welfare system and the same rules apply to them as to all other children, which is the right to education.
Education for unaccompanied children is in practice provided by a limited number of public schools in Budapest. Access to effective education remained difficult in 2018. Since many unaccompanied children regard Hungary as a transit country for various reasons, they often drop out of school once enrolled. Schools that provide places find it hard to manage the high fluctuation of children in various classes due to the increased level of central control over educational management. This effectively creates a vicious circle: effective education may serve as a pull factor and encourage children to stay. The already limited number of schools however are reluctant to take unaccompanied minors for fear of them leaving Hungary and thus dropping out. The lack of access to education on the other hand serves as a push factor for many children who argue that staying in Hungary is not a realistic option for them since they cannot receive proper formal education.
While all unaccompanied minors in the Children’s Home in Fót were enrolled in schools, some complained of the low quality of education in their secondary schools. Schools were not always chosen for students based on their abilities, wishes and potential, but rather on the availability of empty places. There is no official state funded language learning support for refugee children when entering the school system.
In the case of children with families, the situation is also difficult. Hardly any school is ready to offer the specialised care and support that refugee children need. The growing anti-refugee sentiment may make it even more difficult for schools to admit children receiving international protection for fear of facing a backlash from parents or donors.
The Menedék Association used to provide a so-called school programme to all children hosted in Fót, which consists of games and learning through play. Though attendance was not compulsory, based on HHC lawyers’ experience on the field children did make a point to attend since they considered it as a useful gateway to formal education. Menedék also offered preparatory classes for those who are about to enter formal education. Given the very low number of unaccompanied minors in Fót, the school programme ceased to operate in 2019.
Those unaccompanied children receiving a protection status before they turn 18 are eligible to aftercare services, that grants them the right to free education and housing. Depending on their individual circumstances and the level of education they are receiving, they may benefit from aftercare until they turn 30.
As to the administrative barriers to education Wolffhardt et al. writes the following: “Barriers that negatively impact on access to the higher (upper secondary, postsecondary/tertiary) levels of education are more widespread and exist in […] Hungary, […]. Mostly, they relate to proving previous stages of educational attainment without authorities regulating the equivalence procedures or proceedings in the absence of proper documentation.”
Young adults and adults have the same access to vocational trainings as nationals. However, the access is hindered by the fact that the trainings granted by law are only available in Hungarian, thereby the law does not take into account the specific needs of beneficiaries of international protection as a vulnerable group. On the other hand though, beneficiaries of international protection face no administrative obstacles when accessing such trainings.
Apart from that, young adults and adults have access only to a limited number of courses offered by NGOs. Until the termination of AMIF funding, Kalunba Charity provided free of charge accredited Hungarian language course with different levels ranging from illiteracy to intermediate language exam. Since June 2018, the organisation is still capable to provide language course for free of charge for those refugees who have just been granted status. Everyone else needs to pay 1,000 HUF per hour. The organisation provides supervision of children for the time being of the courses. Additionally, Kalunba also provides so-called afterschool program, which targets children and young adults, including correspondence with the schools and support of education. Within this programme the organisation supports 35 persons per semester.
In 2018, BMSZKI organised volunteers who once a week taught Hungarian language for mothers in their homes. Later on, as a result of the big number of volunteers the target group was broadened. There is no report on that concerning 2019. After the project of BMSZKI had ended, and many of the employees working with refugees left the centre, the organisation had no capacity left to maintain the volunteer network in 2019.
MigHelp Association is an adult education institute. According to their website, the association has provided beginners with classes in Hungarian, German, French, and English, computer training, classes in vehicle driving, and child day care for migrants and refugees.. Their programmes are free of charge although according to the organisation, those not speaking English on an intermediate level are not able to attend their courses. It frequently happens that beneficiaries of international protection cannot finish the courses due to their precarious employment and housing situation.
The Central European University terminated its Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) programme specifically targeting asylum seekers and refugees in the autumn semester of 2018 as a result of the ambiguity of the so-called “Stop Soros” legislation package, that came into force in August 2018 levying a 25% tax on financing or activities “supporting” immigration or “promoting” migration in Hungary. Whereas the program was on a pause in 2019, the University relaunches the OLIve Weekend program for the summer term of 2020 offering courses for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection.
Wolffhardt et al. 2019, 141.
Section 77(1)(d), (2) and Section 93 Child Protection Act.
Wolffhardt et al. 2019, 139.
Wolffhardt et al. 2019, 113.
Wolffhardt et al. 2019, 114.
HHC, Criminalisation and Taxation – The summary of legal amendments adopted in the summer of 2018 to intimidate human rights defenders in Hungary, 25 September 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2GxoLBq.
The programme continues as of January 2019.