In 2013 Krétakör launched Free School (Szabadiskola), in which until today nearly 200 students have participated, from more than 40 schools. Students led discussions to their peers, created street art events, participated in The Party – a performance that toured two European festivals-, led urban walking tours, and created a guerilla poster campaign about homelessness, which was among the top 10 projects of 2014 chosen by the design showcase of Highlights of Hungary. In 2016  Krétakör received the prestigious cultural honor, the Princess Margriet Award, acknowledging their artistic and social work and educational program. The award was received by the students of the Free School in Amsterdam.

Free School is a training program; it does not have an effect in a single encounter, but it is a long-term educational process with a series of workshops. Another essential goal of the program was to build a collaborative community from the participants; and also to reflect on the process and the challenges associated with it.

The characteristic of adolescence is the growing demand for self-determination. The possibility and ability to understand and influence the broader context often comes to a halt when it’s about shaping public life. The age limit for voting, the infantilizing system of public education, the tabooing of political issues at schools, all suggest to students that politics is for adults and that it is both incomprehensible and inaccessible.  Krétakör’s Free School provides an opportunity for students to address current issues of public life, to become familiar with different views before jumping to a conclusion. They learn to map out the defining connections and systems and to find a creative form to express their own views. The program shows them that dealing with public issues is a really exciting and liberating challenge.

This form allows the group leaders to design a personalized education for each participant, taking into account their individual needs. They set a unique goal for each student, which can later be adjusted based on their experience.

Since the majority of the targeted age group generally rejects dealing with issues of public life, and does not believe that they can make a difference in social issues, one of the main objectives of the program was to reduce their resentment and aversion and to kindle students’ interest. The program also wished to demontsrate how they can regard problems as challenges, bringing forth creative solutions.

However, for most students the exact opposite is self-evident, and it takes time to change their mind and to make them accept that while there are systemic structures it is up to us how we shape them.

The summary of the three years of Free School:

Free School 1.0

Typically school systems enhance the separation between the different social groups. Usually the parents enrolling their children to a church, foundation or vocational school are of different social backgrounds. The decrease of the compulsory education’s age limit or the government’s refusal to moderate the process of ethnic segregation will only intensify this trend.

One of the fundamental objectives of the Free School was to create integrated educational situations. We tried to achieve it in different ways in the different parts of the program. In the first year (2013/2014), we launched the program with a camp where we invited students from very different social backgrounds.

Students arrived from high schools and vocational schools; from state-, church- and foundation-run institutions; from the capital city and from rural settlements of different sizes and from across the border (Transylvania, Upper Hungary, Transcarpathia). Our camp created a genuinely inclusive environment where differences appeared mainly as interesting things to be explored. For the next phase we chose a smaller team of 12 people from among the participants, still trying to preserve the diversity. We offered students a five-months program, during which we held bi-weekly weekend meetings in the Budapest office of the Foundation. The program dealt with examining the dominant systems  – capitalism and democracy – of our society. Students met with experts and visited institutions, later they themselves carried out public actions. Students also implemented a staged intervention based on their own themes in Árpád Schilling’s performance, The Party. The program of the first year was closed with a student-led, film-based game for their peers dealing with the difficulty of overcoming traumas.

Free School’s video of the first semester:

Free School 2.0

Free School Home was an educational program supported by the Norwegian Civil Fund and produced in cooperation with the Goethe Institut. It was the second year of Krétakör’s Free School, where high school students had the opportunity to address political and social issues.  

In the Hungarian part of the program a group of students from Miskolc and another from Budapest was working together for three and half months. Simultaneously a group in Berlin was also working on a public life topic in our partner institution, at the Theater an der Parkaue.  The semester was closed with an international conference where all three student groups and the first year of the Free School talked about their experiences.

11 high school students participated in the Budapest course of Free School Home exploring the issues of housing poverty mentored by Máté Tóth Ridovics (professional manager) and Bálint Juhász (head of Free School). Students deepened their knowledge through research work, presentations and cooperation with experts and homeless activists, and later created a guerilla campaign in the city dealing with the issue of homelessness. Students led by their mentors came up with all the elements of the campaign including the photos, which were later shot by Máté Tóth Ridovics. Students presented the concept to the stakeholders, who commented on the ideas and many also agreed to participate as models in the campaign.

By the end of the project 97 posters were made and were out on the streets, and the students talked about their experiences at an educational conference organized by Krétakör.

The Miskolc part of Free School HOME examined the topic of home in connection with the city’s ethnic-based displacement program with students living or learning near the area of the so-called  numbered streets deemed for displacement. The program was closed with an urban walk highlighting the problems and a flash mob in front of the town hall, which brought people’s attention the fundamental human right to a home.

Free School 3.0

In the academic year of 2015/2016 Krétakör Foundation offered its Free School program for schools who work with students forced out from the state education. The program became part of the schools’ (Burattino, Tanext, Tandem) curriculum for a semester during which we were working on skills that are key in building a democratic society: cooperation and independence, awareness and consciousness, solidarity and advocacy.

In the 3rd year we attempted to create a democracy education at school model. We dealt with the topic of migration and the refugee crisis and put together an educational program. Students met an Iranian man living in Hungary who told them his story and his experiences in Hungary.

Free School’s video of the third semester:

Krétakör’s Free School was founded and is managed by director Árpád Schilling. The program was running between 2013-2016 with the coordination of Bálint Juhász program manager and managing directors Márton Gulyás and Linda Potyondi, and Jutta Gehrig, director of the Goethe Institut in Budapest and with the participation of leading Hungarian educational professionals.

Manager of the 1st year: Ádám Bethlenfalvy  

Managers of the 2nd year: Máté Tóth-Ridovics, György Mészáros, Orchidea Karlowitz-Juhász and Klára Gulyás

Managers of the 3rd year: Virág Vásárhelyi, Andrea Hubert and Attila Galambos

Co-ordinators: Eszter Salamon, Adrienn Széll and Linn Löffler