• “In the last week of every month, my family makes a survival plan. If I manage to sell a few pictures, I am out of trouble. If not, I can go grape-picking,” says László, a teacher and part-time cartoonist from the Hungarian town of Dabas.

    With only three-and-a-half years until retirement, he expects a monthly pension of 160,000 forints (416 euros). “My colleagues and I are worth more than what this government is offering,” he adds.

    Éva, a special needs teacher from Budapest, tells a similar story. “I ran out of energy. At a certain point, I couldn’t keep it together and I started crying in front of the whole staff.”

    László and Éva are no longer teachers. They are two among hundreds who have quit their jobs in recent months, due to persistently low salaries and the introduction of the so-called ‘status law’, which restricts the rights of teachers.

    Without doubt, Hungarian teachers are off to a grim start this school year. Despite almost a year of protests and strikes, and countless promises from the government, their situation has not changed. Some have been sacked for their actions, and salaries remain among the lowest in the European Union. Meanwhile the government is blaming the EU for freezing the funds needed for a pay rise.

    Moreover, the new status law limits their right to protest, raises their maximum number of daily working hours from eight to 12, and obliges them to be transferred to schools with a shortage of teachers.

    This may happen soon, as schools are listing vacancies for teachers specialised in “maths and everything else”. According to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for education, the country only has a shortage of 460 teachers, but this figure will rise as many have pledged to resign soon.