The Public Education Act provides for compulsory education (kindergarten or school) to asylum seeking and refugee children under the age of 16 staying or residing in Hungary. Children have access to kindergarten and school education under the same conditions as Hungarian children. Schooling is only compulsory until the age of 16. Consequently, asylum-seeking children above the age of 16 may not be offered the possibility to attend school, until they receive a protection status. In practice, this depends on the availability of places in schools accepting migrant children and the willingness of guardians and the Children’s Home staff to ensure the speedy enrolment of children. In 2018, for the first time in the past years, all children in Fót were enrolled and attended school. In contrast to that in 2019 asylum seeking children who arrived around June and in autumn of 2019 were not enrolled. In respect to the first half of the year however, children could attend school. Those unaccompanied minors who were under a Dublin procedure to unite with family members staying in other EU countries were never enrolled in formal education. By the time appropriate steps could be taken – mostly by civil society – to that end, their transfers were completed.
Refugee children are often not enrolled in the normal classes with Hungarian pupils but placed in special preparatory classes. Integration with the Hungarian children therefore remains limited (see below the account of Menedék Association). They can move from these special classes once their level of Hungarian is sufficient. However, there are only a few institutions which accept such children and are able to provide appropriate programmes according to their specific needs, education level and language knowledge. According to the experience of the Menedék Association, many local schools are reluctant to receive foreign children as (a) they lack the necessary capacity and expertise to provide additional tutoring to asylum-seeking children; and (b) Hungarian families would voice their adversarial feelings towards the reception of asylum-seeking children. This is a clear sign of intolerance of the Hungarian society in general. In some other cases, the local school only accepts asylum seeking children in segregated classes but without a meaningful pedagogical programme and only for 2 hours a day, which is significantly less than the 5-7 hours per day that Hungarian students spend in school. The HHC is also aware of positive examples from 2019 where schools accepted asylum-seeking children. However, regarding the administration of official documents, there had been problems. These were all sorted out with the help of the HHC’s legal officer by explaining the legal background of such children to the headmaster of that particular school.
Moreover, if the asylum-seeking child has special needs, they rarely have access to special education because of the language barriers.
Unaccompanied children in Fót attend elementary and secondary school in Budapest. Children in the Károlyi István Children’s Home find it hard to enrol in formal education for a number of reasons, such as the delays in providing them with documents (such as an ID card) and the lack of available capacity in the few schools, which accept unaccompanied minors. Children therefore need the support of NGOs so that they can successfully fulfil the obligations imposed by the school. It was noted in 2019 that Menedék Association, in cooperation with the legal guardians, provided them the necessary help in this regard. The increasing number of very young unaccompanied minors placed a heavy burden on the educational system and shed light on systemic shortcomings such as the lack of an elementary school willing and able to enrol young asylum-seeking children in 2018.
Prior to the last year, the general experience of HHC was that there were no asylum-seeking children placed in Vámosszabadi. However, Menedék Association reported that in the autumn of 2019 a family of three with a 6-year-old girl were placed there. Since December 2019, the child has private classes from a teacher in one of the elementary schools of Győr. The Association notes that the admission to the local elementary school, constituting togetherness with the school community would be a more effective way of integration for her.
In Balassagyarmat, there has been no arrangement made with the local schools. There is a school operating at the premises of the community shelter, where resident children can be enrolled. According to the Menedék Association a 5-year-old boy was taken by the local kindergarten in September 2019 thanks to the good cooperation between the reception facility and the preschool.
Education opportunities and vocational training for adults is only offered once they have a protection status under the same conditions as Hungarian citizens. In practice, asylum seekers can sometimes attend Hungarian language classes offered by NGOs for free of charge. In the reception centres, there were no Hungarian language classes provided to asylum seekers in 2018. In contrast to that, over the course of 2019, the Menedék Association thought Hungarian language to the residents in Vámosszabadi. They also reported that in addition to that there is also a Hungarian language course held in the family support centre in Győr targeting foreigners. The latter provides a great opportunity for community experience to the residents of the reception facility.
In Balassagyarmat there was no Hungarian language class provided in 2019 to asylum seekers, however according to the Menedék Association one applicant commuted from the facility to Budapest in order to attend a language class that was organised by the NGO and a language school.
Before September 2017, education as such was practically non-existent in the transit zones. Since then, according to the Hungarian Government, education in the Tompa transit zone is organised by the Szeged Educational District and in the Röszke transit zone it is organised by the Kiskőrös Educational District (the latter being where unaccompanied minors are accommodated). Prior to 2019 based on personal meetings with unaccompanied children who had participated in these educational programs the HHC concluded that this can hardly be perceived as effective education. Unaccompanied minors found them useful mostly because they had a sense of activity rather than dullness for a while during their arbitrary detention. Classes were not tailored or age-appropriate and teachers often lacked the necessary linguistic skills needed to teach effectively. Based on the observation of teaching materials handed out to unaccompanied minors who had been in the transit zone it could be seen that the classes mostly focused on enabling minors to say a few basic things in Hungarian.
 Section 45(3) Act CXC of 2011 on public education.