Communication of the Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities on the renovation of the building complex of the elementary school in Tarnazsadány

The opening ceremony of the renovated building complex of the elementary school in Tarnazsadány took place on 29 November 2018. The project of 130 million HUF in total had been initiated by the maintaining institutions, the headmaster as well as the ombudsman and the deputy ombudsman for the rights of national minorities. The renovation has been badly needed for decades, however this time not only the sanitary unit attached to the main building has been renovated but also the windows and doors were changed, the classrooms were insulated and the roof has been fixed.

In the year 2016, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay was informed, through the news in the media, of the seriously risky public health conditions found in the Tarnazsadány branch of the Mikszáth Kálmán elementary School of Erdőtelek. The news articles mainly focused on the unbearable situation of the sanitary unit located in the schoolyard. In addition, they warned that that the school did not have a sports hall and the whole building complex as well as the fence was in a very bad shape. In 2016, the maintaining education district centre implemented the renewal and maintenance works necessary for the adequate operation of the challenged sanitary unit, however it was necessary to start an investigation by the ombudsman for the in-depth exploration of the connected problems.

The joint report issued after a comprehensive investigation by the ombudsman in agreement with the deputy ombudsman for the rights of national minorities established that the deficiencies of the infrastructure resulted in the immediate risk of the injury of children’s rights, the right to education and the fundamental right to human dignity. According to the position taken in the report, the investigators assume that – despite of the best intentions of the headmaster and the teachers – neither high quality education nor equal access to various education services are granted in the Tarnazsadány elementary school due to the lack of material and personal conditions. Moreover, because of the budgetary situation of the institution, there were no grant application resources available in the recent years, thus there was a lack of both the investment resources and the capacities necessary for drawing the financing needed for the development of the personal and material conditions mentioned above.

Based on the above findings, the commissioner for fundamental rights and the deputy ombudsman for the rights of national minorities turned to the affected competent authorities, calling upon them to act in their own scope of competence for the purpose of completely eliminating as soon as possible the problems affecting the fundamental rights, i.e. to use their tools available to provide extraordinary support for the infrastructure developments of the Tarnazsadány elementary school.

It has become evident on the basis of the data, documentation and on-site findings available that most of the pupils in the school – just as the population in the village – belong to the Roma ethnic minority. As underlined in the report: in the interest of guaranteeing high quality education and training, in the disadvantaged regions and in the case of institutions of public education segregated on the basis of the pupils’ Roma origin, the provision and the development of adequate infrastructural as well as personal and material conditions are the most important tools of the desegregation policy.

The renovation of the Tarnazsadány elementary school is a good example of an excellent cooperation where the competent authorities were open to consider the measures proposed in the joint report issued by the commissioner for fundamental rights and the deputy commissioner for the rights of national minorities and the problems that had remained unresolved for many years were effectively remedied through regional and inter-institutional collaboration.

In the light of the above, it is not unjustified to hope that in the case of the Tarnazsadány school the swift and professional utilisation of the allocated budgetary resources for the development of the building complex shall result in the improvement of the conditions of education together with increasing the quality of training that may lead to decreasing school dropout rate and the exclusion of pupils.