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.
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 of schools accepting asylum-seeking children in the last years. HHC was also informed of instances in which schools accepted asylum seeking children in 2021. However, regarding the administration of official documents, some problems were reported in the last years, even if they were solved with the help of the HHC’s legal officer by explaining the legal background of such children to the headmaster of that particular school. Menedék Association also reported about administrative barriers due to the lack of certificates providing for the attendance of primary school (8 grades) in the country of origin. Moreover, if the asylum-seeking child has special needs, they rarely have access to special education because of 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. In the last years the Menedék Association in cooperation with the legal guardians, provided them the necessary help in this regard. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the older unaccompanied children in Fót with new challenges regarding education. Home schooling proved to be quite burdensome as there were not enough computers and web cameras available for them. In 2021, due to the Embassy procedure, enrolment of unaccompanied children was further delayed by 2-3 months since children are eligible for education only once they are registered as asylum seekers. Even though they are placed in Fót by virtue of a ‘temporary placement decision’, the statement of intent to lodge an asylum application in Hungary must be submitted in one of the designated embassies. In practice, this can be done by the legal guardian of the unaccompanied minor; besides the designated embassies, the submission can also be made in Subotica (Szabadka), closer to Hungary than Belgrade.
Upon the closure of the transit zones in May 2020, children who were placed with their families in Vámosszabadi enrolled in a local school in Győr, even though education was not integrated. In 2020, education programmes were organised as follows: schoolteacher visited the camp once a week, children attended the local school in Győr twice per week, while on the remaining days the social worker of the NDGAP assisted them with teaching. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic though, 2020 was dominated by home schooling as of March, thus the schoolteacher visited them in the reception centre. According to Menedék Association, in the first half of 2021, a good relationship was established between two local schools and the reception facility. The educational district was cooperative in providing children in Vámosszabadi with community education. Even in the case of a child who did not have permission to stay longer than 3-months and as such, was not officially eligible for formal education-, the school accepted to enrol him in school. In addition, there is an educational institution run by retired teachers in Győr. Children could attend preparatory classes in the mornings and afternoons and had classes together with other children two-three times a week. In the remaining two days of the week, social workers assisted the children with studying in the reception facility, with the aim of preparing them for the school year starting in September. According to Menedék Association, even at times of home schooling due to COVID-19, children were given classes in person. This type of training schedule lasted until refugee children arrived in Vámosszabadi in 2021 (note that refugee children rescued by the Hungarian Defense Forces were not entitled to access education, since they did not fall under asylum procedure during their stay in the reception facilities. For more details, see Chapter on Differential treatment of specific nationalities in reception). In Balassagyarmat, there has been no arrangement made with local schools. There is a school operating at the premises of the community shelter, where resident children can be enrolled. In 2021, two asylum seeking children were successfully enrolled.
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. As opposed to the years of 2019 and 2020, when the Menedék Association with the help of volunteers provided Hungarian language classes to the residents in Vámosszabadi, as well as in Győr, in 2021 they held programs for different age groups and familiarized them with the Hungarian alphabet and numbers (latter exclusively for children). In Balassagyarmat there was no Hungarian language class provided in the last years to asylum seekers.
On 10 February 2020, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations on Hungary, where it recommended that all asylum-seeking children should have access to meaningful education.
 Section 45(3) Act CXC of 2011 on public education.