“From our perspective we should not be ashamed of our Roma compatriots: they are not a helpless minority, eking out an existence on the money of other taxpayers (…).Instead we talk about Hungarian citizens for whom we can provide a liveable future and opportunity here in the land of their birth.”, the Prime Minister said.
“For a long time in Hungary public opinion believed that the integration and inclusion of the Roma community was a lost cause. But the essence of today’s convention is that this is not the case: it is not a lost cause, and there is indeed hope; it is only a matter of putting in the effort”, he pointed out.
“According to the Government, our task is to provide an opportunity to those who are searching for one, because world will become a fair one if some kind of opportunity is available to everyone”, the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Orbán also stressed that in Hungary today there are two paths to advancement: work and study, and if the two are linked, that is especially advantageous.
In recent years our country’s economy has developed to a level at which we can now state that anyone in Hungary who is able and willing to work will find work, but “reviving people’s will to work means showing them that work is worthwhile”, said the Prime Minister, according to whom work also has a positive effect on people: it restores their self-respect and assures a useful and fulfilling life.
With relation to studying, he recalled the 2011 launch of the Christian Roma Vocational College Network, aimed at facilitating the cause of social inclusion. “Over 90 percent of those who have completed their studies are now in work”, he pointed out, also highlighting the fact that the level of education of the Roma population is continuously increasing.
The Prime Minister promised to guarantee the continuation of the programme, with an additional 140 million forints available in the 2018 budget and 550 million forints a year in funding from 2019.
Speaking to the convention’s participants, “future young Roma leaders”, the prime Minster also noted that from among the current members of the government the Speaker of parliament, the prime Minister, the Minster for National Economy and the Minister of national Development all attended vocational colleges. “I could not tell you anything more encouraging”, he added.
In his speech, Mr. Orbán mentioned several measures introduced by the Government, including mandatory nursery school education from the age of three, and the provision of free school meals and textbooks to a large proportion of children.
With relation to nursery school education he said the new measure was a breakthrough, because it enables ta reduction in the disadvantages experience when starting school, providing a nearly equal opportunity for everyone to embark on his or her own career. “Hungary is the only European country in which children begin compulsory nursery school education from the age of three”, the Prime Minister added.
In his speech, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog pointed out that a country can only gain strength permanently if all of its citizens have the opportunity to make progress both together and individually. “Major debts have accumulated with regard to the Roma community during past decades, and there was a lack of honest dialogue and will”, the Minster said.
He highlighted, however, that the Christian Roma Vocational College Network was able to come about thanks to the alliance forged in 2011 citing as an example the fact that as a result the number of young Roma participating in higher education has doubled over the past three years.
“The cause of Hungary’s Roma community is more important than to enable us to tust it exclusively to the Roma themselves. And the cause of Hungary’s Roma community is more important than to enable us to leave Hungary’s Roma population out of it. We can only make progress together”, Mr. Balog said with relation to mutual dependence.
At the convention, at which several former students reported on their lives and careers, the leaders of Hungary’s historic Churches said prayers and blessings, and the participants were also welcomed by president of the Hanns Seidel Foundation Ursula Mannle.
The Christian Roma Vocational College Network, as can be read on the network’s website, is a network of independent Christian Roma vocational colleges. Each vocational college is maintained by Hungary’s Churches, each with its own independent organisations and operational rules, academic programmes and faculties. Their goal is to train Roma intellectuals who are multitalented, aspire to high levels of professionalism, are open to further development, are committed, and who are proud of their Roma identity.