Orosz Ildikó’s Inaugural at the Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year at Rákóczi-Institute Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron) Vocational Training Centre
Dear Secretaries of State, Ecclesiastic and Secular Excellencies!
The Transcarpathian Hungarian community’s 30-year-old dream/plan comes true today. On 26 February 1989, on Sunday the Association of Hungarian Culture in Transcarpathia was established, its program and a declaration of its mission were passed. The event was organized by a small group in the Soviet Union. The notice was published in the Soviet Union Communist Party’s regional newspaper Kárpáti Igaz Szó, in its Saturday’s issue, scarcely legible, tucked away on the last page of the paper – after a debate in the editorial office. The initiated people from Ungvár (Uzhhorod) – at least those with a landline telephone – informed their friends living in the countryside about this event. Móricz Kálmán, a journalist addressed the people of Dobrony (Dobron). Although many of us had personal, family program, commitments, we felt we had to go and act for the future/our future, for the better life of generations following ours. There were many of us and this fact is testified by the film that was made to describe this event. However, I remember neither the cameras nor who made the film. The film, shown on the 30th anniversary of foundation of the Association of Hungarian Culture in Transcarpathia, in the same room where it was established, in addition to recalling the past and nostalgia, brought us closer to reality as well. There could be about 500 of us, though the auditorium could hold a maximum of 150-200 people, standing room included. We were then 30 years younger and 30 kilograms slimmer and were standing at the back of the auditorium and in the corridor.
What struck me as new after seeing the film, was the fact that having experienced a lot, having recently become a pensioner, I could see myself from 30 years ago. In the process of discussing the program, a rather excited woman in her thirties shouted from beside the door demanding to include into the manifesto the creation of a network of Hungarian-language vocational training in Transcarpathia. The offer was loudly approved by everybody present in the auditorium. At that time, we thought that being citizens of a given country, the state where we pay our taxes will satisfy our just claim and demand. The past 3 decades led us to reality. Moreover, events developed in the direction we would not have thought possible in our worst dreams 30 years ago: not only acquiring vocational training but also finishing secondary school would be made impossible in our mother tongue. Being a deputy headmistress responsible for education at Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron) secondary school, we enrolled 150-200 pupils per school year. As a deputy headmistress, I came to the conclusion that our school leavers with various aptitudes lack the opportunity for further study and do not find their place in life. Their smaller proportion invested double energy into studying, struggled with the topical at that time Russian-language entrance exams that formed barriers for them, studied further in institutes, and technical schools. However, those who wanted to master a vocation had no opportunity and they formed the overwhelming majority of our school leavers.
In the first years after its establishment the Association of Hungarian Culture in Transcarpathia worked with great zeal, it managed to break through several obstacles that impeded our plans: a Hungarian group was formed in Ungvár (Uzhhorod) Educational Vocational College and Beregszász (Berehove) Public Health Vocational High School, kindergarten teacher training was started in Munkács (Mukachevo) Teacher-Training College. Meanwhile, our community underwent another “change of the country”. The first Ukrainian Education Act was adopted in 1992 allowing for the organization of minority education, since the minority Ukrainian elite became the majority and still remembered how difficult it is, if you cannot study in your mother tongue. Soon we experienced that the majority easily gets used to good, they instantly forget what it meant to be a minority in the Soviet Union for the Ukrainian people, and a few years later they eliminated training for the minorities adducing various reasons. They passed regulations that made initiating training and vocational training for those whose mother tongue is not Ukrainian almost impossible. I would like to highlight just two out of the set of conditions: institutions must have equipped classrooms and training base, educators with completed vocational training and a university certificate in the specialization. We had to fulfil all this having previously no opportunity to master either the profession or the academic qualification in the professions required by our students.
We have never given up over the three decades. Like a cornered and fenced animal, we were constantly looking for opportunities to break out. There were plans to start vocational training groups in the form of additional training on the grounds of academic, talent management church-run lyceums. Apáczai Foundation that was functioning in the 2000s supported the creation of the necessary conditions and tentatively started specializations in Péterfalva (Pyiterfolvo) and Karácsfalva (Karachyn). No training could provide a recognized certificate, so they soon withered. The Institute also established its tertiary education centre, where short courses were started taking into account the opportunities available. We trained waiters, bee-keepers, tour guides, administrative secretaries, cooks, communicators, etc. These courses could be realized due to tenders, so we could not make them regular, we were not able to ensure continuity for the applicants.
It was a great step forward when we managed to carry into effect higher vocational education at the Institute. Abroad it corresponds to and is known as technician training. True, we could only start specializations that were available at the institution: nursery education, applied mathematics, tourism, social worker, accounting. Pedagogy was not allowed by the Transcarpathian rectors’ conference because Munkács (Mukachevo) teacher training college had a Hungarian group, which had since been eliminated. It happened 5 years ago. We have been searching for a solution ever since on how to satisfy the rest of the real vocational training needs of young people in Transcarpathia.
We did not give up on our plans and together with Rákóczi we believed that “God will not give up on a just cause.” Our requests were heard, we enjoyed the support of the Almighty when implementing our plans, experiencing the wisdom of another great figure of our nation – Széchenyi, “God will never help people directly, but only indirectly, by means of intellect, erudition, and diligence.” The indirect support came from the Hungarian nation, its most respectable part, the mother country. Out of the dreams from 30 years ago we made plans, then concepts. The State Secretariat for National Policy found them worthy of support, they undertook the construction of school buildings and the hall of residence that form the educational basis. Thank you! However, God sent support to fill stones with life and content. We found correct partners in vocational partner institutions: Mátészalka Vocational Training Centre, Baross László Agricultural Vocational High School, Technical College and Hall of Residence, as well as Sátoraljaújhely Georgicon Greek Catholic Agriculture and Food Industry Vocational High School, Technical College and Hall of Residence. By means of mutual brainstorming and coordination we managed to elaborate the educational structure. We are grateful to them as well! We have not yet come to the end of the list of sponsors for 30-year experience taught us to win over those people who by means of their approval will help to ensure continuity. Here I would like to thank for the positive attitude and the support of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Hungary, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Human Resources, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Chamber of Agriculture. We are grateful to them as well!
Today, we are one step closer to fulfilling the nation-unifying constitution, a live direct and ongoing relationship develops between the participants in the training. It has been 100 years already that sly politicians drew walls between us, brothers and sisters, cousins, close and distant relatives. We have to break these walls down as father Benedek Elek writes in his Testament: “Laws have not yet demolished the dividing walls, my son, we have to demolish them.” These walls were incorporated into people’s minds, and the best thing to break them is joint work and activity. The moment has come for the three-year-long common work of the managers and supervisory bodies of the three institutions to result in the beginning of training in Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron), and for more and more people to participate in the intellectual breaking down of the walls between Hungarians.
Vocational training in Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron) advertised enrolment in 17 professions for school leavers with a general certificate of education. By the end of the enrolment period, there were enough applicants to start 7 groups. Thus, on 2 September, in collaboration with two academic institutions we were able to start training in the following specializations: cook, mechanic, hairdresser, beautician, welder, electrician, and agricultural technician.
95 students from 40 Transcarpathian settlements seized the new opportunity. Vocational training students study one week in a Hungarian partner institution and one week in Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron). The organization of the learners’ travelling was jointly undertaken by both educational institutions. In Transcarpathia our Institute organizes the students’ transportation, on the other side of the border, this is done by partner institutions. In Transcarpathia the students get a scholarship, in Hungary they are provided with accommodation and three meals a day. Each group has its professionally recognized form master, the Institute provides an educator in the hall of residence and an accompanying teacher who stays with students in Mátészalka for a week. They use this time to exchange experience, professional development, thus a very effective knowledge transfer can take place between the two regions. Students acquire National Qualifications Register certificates at the end of vocational training. The Institute verifies them in Ukrainian as a non-accredited training in Ukraine and specifies the subjects the students study as well as the number of academic hours for each of the disciplines.
In Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron), side by side with training in Hungary, the students learn the peculiarities and norms of the profession in Ukraine, the fundamentals of Ukrainian law and entrepreneurship, specialized professional Ukrainian language, local history and geography to strengthen their regional identity. They can learn about the characteristics of the Hungarian cultural heritage, the local Hungarian values via these disciplines. We ensure the acquisition of practical knowledge for the students under local circumstances, directly at enterprises; they can also participate in various optional programs.
In Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron) education is held in Róttag Street 3, in the new building that is signed over today; it also includes a dormitory. In Hungary, Mátészalka Vocational Training Centre of Déri Miksa Vocational Training School and Hall of Residence, as well as Baross László Agricultural Technical College and Vocational School provide training and accommodation for our students. What we regret most are specializations offered by Sátoraljaújhely Georgicon Greek Catholic Agricultural and Food Industry Vocational High School, Technical College and Hall of Residence – viticulture and oenology, bakery, confectionery, meat processing – there was no sufficient number of candidates to start the groups. However, we do not give up, and I hope that next year there will be enough applicants for the announced vocational courses to start systematic training of the vocations that are so needed for our region. Although students came from 40 Transcarpathian settlements, the applicants also mentioned that many people would prefer to study closer to their homes, thus it is no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of candidates were from Ung, Munkács (Mukachevo) and their suburbs.
The Transcarpathian Hungarians are concentrated along the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in a 200 km long and 50 km wide area. The population’s local identity is determined by regionalism that evolved over a Millenium. Transcarpathia was formed by the Soviets by carving out a part out of each of the Ung, Ugocsa, Bereg, and Máramaros (Maramureș) counties. Former counties determine their population’s bonds and leeway. Surveys substantiate the fact that people occupied in vocational training usually come from a 30-50 kilometre area, they do not travel farther to study. Indeed, the long-term plans include the establishment of more training centres in Beregszasz (Berehove), Péterfalva (Pyiterfolvo), and Visk (Vyshkovo) where the training offer will be in line with the current labour market needs, we want to expand. This way we would like to set up a network covering Transcarpathia’s historical regions: Ung, Bereg, Ugocsa, Máramar (Maramureș). This network would be called Egán Ede Vocational Training Centre and its first member institution, Nagydobrony (Velyka Dobron) Vocational Training Centre officially starts functioning today.
On behalf of the institution’s management, I would like to express once again my gratitude to everyone who contributed, to the bravest ones – the first robins, you, dear students and their parents, who believed that training would start in September. We live in such a place where vocational training diploma can be ordered and bought on the net, as they say, “it can be made” if this is the condition for foreign employment. And many people do so. True, this does not make them experts, but they do not think of it, therefore the students’ application is praiseworthy, because the fact that they enrolled means they want not only a certificate, but also to learn and master a vocation. Good luck to you all and do not forget to make good use of what you learn for yourself and your community. In XXI century, when everything is under the control of technology, academic studies, and the virtual world, it becomes especially valuable when people can solve any issue with their own hands, can create value, and they will be more and more appreciated over time. A good vocation will increasingly be more and more appreciated as it is in the happier half of Europe, where it brings people more profit than some academic degree. You came here to master the vocation you are interested in to the best of your knowledge. And we worked out a system to ensure this. You do not have to study general “I-do-not-like-it” subjects, but we would like to supplement your knowledge with some disciplines that are indispensable for independent and successful entrepreneurs. The first one is Ukrainian entrepreneurial and legal fundamentals that nobody can do without in XXI century. The second is specialized professional Ukrainian language. We do not want to prepare you to External Independent Evaluation, because we are convinced that you do not need to know grammar in depth, you should be able to talk while serving the clients, ordering the necessary tools and materials, and especially defend your interests, rights, businesses, and your families. Becoming bilingual will benefit you enormously compared to staying monolingual. Be proud of this, undertake grammatical errors, because one cannot be perfect in another world, but that should not prevent a person from saying what he wants. By the end of your training I wish you strengthening in your vocation, self-awareness, and plans. May Lord give you strength, health, and opportunity to carrying them into effect. Meanwhile, do not forget József Attila’s verse of several lines:
„Don’t be hasty.
Though by your labour others profit,
merely working precisely and fine
just like stars are moving in the sky
is but worth it.”
I hereby declare the 2019/2020 academic year in vocational training open.
Dr Orosz Ildikó,
Rector of Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College of Higher Education