Thousands of students, teachers and supporters demonstrated in Hungary’s capital for improved pay and working conditions for teachers, the latest expression of frustration over the right-wing government’s education policies from a growing student movement.

The protest march in Budapest began in a square next to Hungary’s parliament and stopped traffic on one of the city’s busiest avenues. Protesters, largely made up of high school-age students, called for the repeal of a draft bill that would revoke teachers’ status as public employees, and demanded pay raises for educators and the restoration of their right to strike.

Agnes Vlasics, 57, a teacher from Budapest, said she had considered ending her 30-year career in education because of the poor working conditions and what she sees as a lack of willingness by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to meaningfully engage one. with teachers’ concerns.

“This government cannot lose. They make a prestige issue out of everything,” she said.

“When they impose newer and newer sanctions on our heads using governance by decree … what can we trust? Unfortunately, Viktor Orban has lost all touch with reality he ever had.”

Students and teachers have held a series of similar protests in recent months and have become the main voice of dissent in Hungary after a coalition of opposition parties was soundly defeated by Orban’s Fidesz party in national elections last year.

Orban’s government, which is often accused of autocratic rule, says it can only implement a planned series of pay rises for teachers when the European Union releases money to Hungary that has been frozen due to violations of the rule of law and judicial independence.

Critics say the government should be able to fund its education system using its own national budget, and that poor wages and working conditions in the field are causing a critical shortage of teachers.

Protesters on Friday were present in even greater numbers than a similar demonstration earlier this month, where police tried to break up the crowds of youths using tear gas and, on at least one occasion, rubber batons. Protesters chanted, “Tear gas doesn’t teach us” in reference to the police response.

Nina Zador, 18, a student in Budapest, said she has noticed that some of her peers had given up hope that they can affect change by demonstrating to their teachers, but she had no plans to stop.

“At least I still have a little ray of hope, and it’s very important to show that we stand up for our future,” she said.

“Regardless of the fact that we don’t see much change so far, it’s important to show what we think.”