Hungary's secondary school students return to classrooms for first time this year
Penelope Liersch in Budapest


Hungary's secondary school students are back in the classroom for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions sent them home in November 2020. 

After six months away, students at Burattino School on the outskirts of Budapest were excited to be back in the classroom. For many pupils, Monday's lessons represented a new beginning.

"For us teachers, it's superb to have the kids back. It feels a little bit like the first of September when you come back after the summer break," said headmaster Kata Mezei. 

She continued: "All the classes are full. We are so happy that the parents let them back here. It is not an accident that everybody's here – the students must have been looking forward to the restart and they are happy to be back." 



It was a sentiment echoed by teenagers unusually excited to be back in their classrooms, thrilled to take part in art class and join physical education lessons. 

Szilvio is in his second last year of school and hopes to become a chef. His learning has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. 

"I think it is very useful that we are back to school. A lot of people were against it and wanted to keep digital schooling on but I think that we need to be here. Next year we have our final exams and we did not study much at home, so I think it's necessary to be back," he said. 

Digital learning has been harder for students at this school compared with many others. The students come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, making studying at home for some close to impossible. 

Mezei explained that during the six months of online learning, students without internet access or computers struggled. She estimated that up to 25 percent of the students did not submit homework in that time.


It is the first time in 2021 that Hungary's secondary school students will be back in classrooms. /CGTN

It is the first time in 2021 that Hungary's secondary school students will be back in classrooms. /CGTN


Being back with their teachers and friends is vital for the students' mental wellbeing and at this school it means students have social support and meals on top of their formal education.

Across the country, restrictions have been lifted to allow primary school students to take part in leisure activities such as swimming as part of physical education. Teachers are hoping older students will soon have the same freedom, with children currently needing to accompany a vaccinated parent to take part in many activities. 

These are the things students from Burattino School often miss out on. Teachers are planning at least five camps for next year and are desperate for them to go ahead to give students something to look forward to and a break from their regular routine.

While they're excited to be back, secondary school students will finish the year and start the summer holidays in mid-June. It's hoped by September the pandemic will have eased significantly in Hungary, allowing a much smoother start to the new school year.

From this week, 16 to 18-year-olds are also able to register to be vaccinated with the Pfizer jab, giving them much greater freedom. 

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