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Le Réseau Jai Bhim en Hongrie

9 pages
Ci-dessous est présenté le Réseau Jai Bhim de Hongrie. Il s’agit d’une communauté bouddhiste reconnue qui fait fonctionner le Lycée Dr Ámbédkar dans le village de Sajókaza. L’école vise à aider la communauté Rom locale à sortir de la pauvreté et de l’isolement, par un programme éducatif adapté à ses besoins. Cette initiative aide les Roms à reconstruire une cohésion fondée sur leurs propres traditions et sur des valeurs bouddhiques.
L'auteure est diplômée d'HEC, Majeure Alternative Management, en 2011.
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Observatoire du Management Alternatif
Alternative Management Observatory


Jai Bhim Network Hungary

Csilla Nárai – Février 2011
Majeure Alternative Management – HEC Paris – 2010-2011

Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 1

Le Réseau Jai Bhim en Hongrie

Cette fiche a été réalisée dans le cadre du cours « Grands défis planétaires » donné par
Denis Bourgeois, David Khoudour-Castéras et Thanh Nghiem au sein de la Majeure
Alternative Management, spécialité de 3 année du programme Grande Ecole d’HEC Paris.

Résumé: Ci-dessous est présenté le Réseau Jai Bhim de Hongrie. Il s’agit d’une communauté
bouddhiste reconnue qui fait fonctionner le Lycée Dr Ámbédkar dans le village de Sajókaza.
L’école vise à aider la communauté Rom locale à sortir de la pauvreté et de l’isolement, par
un programme éducatif adapté à ses besoins. Cette initiative aide les Roms à reconstruire une
cohésion fondée sur leurs propres traditions et sur des valeurs bouddhiques.

Mots clés: Education, Défavorisé, Bouddhisme

The Jai Bhim Network in Hungary

This review was presented in the « Global challenges » course of Denis Bourgeois, David
Khoudour-Castéras and Thanh Nghiem. This course is part of the “Alternative Management”
specialization of the third-year HEC Paris business school program.

Abstract: The paper presents the activity of the Jai Bhim Network in Hungary, a unique
Buddhist religious organization that operates the Dr Ámbédkar School in the village of
Sajókaza. The school’s main goal is to help the local Roma community to get out of the
despairing situation of poverty and segregation by providing a tailor-made school and help to
rebuild community cohesion on both their own tradition and the new values of Buddhism.

Key words: Education, Disadvantaged, Buddhism


1. Basic data: p. 3
2. History: p. 3
3. Mission and values : p. 7
4. Analyse de l’auteur de la fiche : p. 8
5. Sources : p. 9
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diffusés par l'Observatoire du Management Alternatif relèvent de la responsabilité exclusive de leurs auteurs.
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 21. Basic data

The Jai Bhim Network is a registered religious organization in Hungary that operates the
Dr. Ámbédkar Secondary Grammar School, Vocational School and Elementary School for
Adult Education in the village of Sajókaza, in the highly disadvantaged region of Ózd, North
East Hungary. The school was opened in 2007 and in 2010 they have put in place a tutor
program involving eleven villages and targeting three hundred and thirty pupils of the region.

2. History

The story of the Jai Bhim Network unfolds in two dimensions. One is path of the founder
and director of the school, Tibor Derdák, previously involved in other similar projects – and
the other one is the highly unusual Buddhist affiliation. Following a presentation of both lines,
the paper provides a description of the initiatives’ financing structure and activity – in
education and beyond.

The story that inspires
Dr B. R. Ambedkar, issued from a very poor, untouchable caste family of fourteen
children, after succeeding his exams at high school (where he was the first untouchable
student, facing the most severe discrimination) got a state scholarship to study at Columbia
University where he obtained a master’s degree in Economics. Then, he started a PhD at
London School of Economics, but had to return to India where his career was closed down by
barriers of social exclusion, despite his talent and excellent academic record. Thanks to his
talent and hard work, he could still return to Britain, complete a PhD and establish a legal
practice. His new start in India proved to be more successful he got involved in promoting
social uplifting of the untouchables and in a few years he became one of the most prominent
political figures of the time, efficiently criticizing the caste system and fighting for human
rights. As India gained independence in 1947, he was nominated to law minister and to
Chairman of the Constitution drafting Committee – becoming the Father of the Constitution.
Later on he made the discovery that Mahar people, his ancestors were originally Buddhist
people living as outcasts and made into untouchables as they refused to convert into Hinduism
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 3– so he converted himself and a large number of his followers to Buddhism, a religion that
endorses equality and liberty.

Responding to an urging need
This was thus the story that caught the attention of Tibor Derdák, a Hungarian sociologist
and social entrepreneur, working on a new project that could provide a long term solution for
young, heavily disadvantaged (mostly Roma) people who are outside of the scope of public
minority programs. Many of these young people are living in small villages in distant areas,
with very high unemployment rates and hopelessly indebted households. They typically don’t
participate in secondary education, might have difficulties with reading and counting and they
have almost no chance to get a job contract other than seasonal physical work. Apart from
being poor and without access to good schools or even teaching materials, their problem is
deeply rooted in the social environment. After the regime change, these poorly educated
Roma families, living almost always in a separate part of the village, did not find their way on
the job market and got dependent on state allowances, while poverty aggravated. In this
environment of disappointment and apathy, compulsory education does not appear as any
kind of solution, what’s more they don’t even believe that they could finish school; higher
education is not even a dream. So the families are not motivated to keep their children at
school, nor do they encourage them to get a qualification – an effort gladly backed by
pessimistic teachers and ignorant policy makers. As a result, inequalities are frozen and their
disadvantage gets deeper and deeper.
Seeing this situation, Tibor Derdák started working on educational programs for Roma
children in the early nineties and co-founded the very successful Gandhi Secondary School in
Pécs (South Hungary) in 1994. This was a regular secondary school for an ethnic minority,
aiming to prepare students for higher education and it worked out so well, that the actual poor
village kids coming from real segregation could not really get in any more. So he launched a
tutorial program called Amrita association, that operated in a self-help system, integrating
more successful Roma students as tutors – the project worked well, but being only tutorage, it
would not give the certificates demanded by the job market. Thus the idea of the Dr
Ambedkar School (and its smaller predecessor, called Kis Tirgis, Little Tiger founded in 2004
in South Hungary) came from these experiences: how to make these children pass the leaving
exam in a way that could help the whole community and engage even the most disadvantaged
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 4As a location, they chose the village of Sajókaza, where they previously started working
with two families and could pride themselves on two university students. The village is
located in one of the poorest regions of Hungary that remained without work opportunities
when the mines were closed and the heavy industry bankrupted more than forty years ago. It
is reported to have a 30-50% of Roma population, living in separate parts of Sajókaza, in
houses with lamentable conditions, almost exclusively unemployed and barely having made
until the 8th class.

Financing the mission
When looking for partners for the aforementioned educational programs, Derdák and his
colleagues started to search also among religious groups and churches. Not only that these
were traditionally close to the mission of education and helping the poor, but schools
registered as “religious” also receive higher state quotas, essentially important for a school
where students cannot pay for any equipment. As most of the Roma people are catholic, first
they went this way, but apart from an early cooperation with a German catholic community,
they could not get any support from the church.
Looking for further opportunities, they started to build connections to Hungarian Buddhist
communities. Although this relationship did not prove to be stable, Derdák and his colleagues
got to discover the Indian Buddhist movement started by Dr Ambedkar. They also recognized
that Roma students were very receptive to Ambedkar’s story and to his pragmatic views on
social equality, so that they could effectively use these ideas to motivate poor kids to set goals
and reach for them. This is how they got to found the Jai Bhim Network in Hungary that
would spiritually and financially support the secondary education of disadvantaged children.
The Network is currently supporting this single school and a tutorial program that started
in 2010. As a church, it is entitled to several forms of subsidies and tax reductions, but the
school is mainly supported by the educational quotas (which is slightly elevated both for
ethnic and for religious institutions). Besides public money, they also receive donations from
individuals, partly due to the tax system that allows citizens to donate 1% of their income tax
to a registered religious group and another 1% to a non-profit organization. The third pillar of
their financing is provided by foundations; partly form the business sector, like the foundation
of Raiffeisen Bank.

Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 5The Dr Ámbédkar School today
At the opening in 2007, the school had one hundred enrolled students, from which fifty
stayed until the year-end. Two years later, they already started with three hundred students
and finished with one hundred and fifty. As Derdák explains in an interview, these young
people encounter different problems in their lives that make them leave school, like finding a
job, getting a child... But they don’t disappear forever; they remain in the village and spread
the word among their relatives.
As Derdák says, a school like the Ámbédkar, would first attract the poorest, those who
don’t go to any school, then they tell about the good ambiance and their successes that attracts
those living in somewhat better conditions. One of their goals is to attract non-Roma students
and make integrated education reality, but the school did not reach this point yet. He also
points out, that first students are usually men that might leave quickly. Next year they are
followed by the more conscientious women and for them it’s a real revolt, it means that they
reject to be a mother at sixteen and end up with five-six years of school. Sitting in the school
alters these relationships and dating habits too.
Besides the growing number of students, they aim to provide an example for educators too,
who still think teaching Roma children is embarrassing. Many primary teachers are explicitly
discouraging Roma children from trying to get to a secondary school (as it would be “too
difficult” or “useless” for them), or even from getting better notes, as they don’t need it later
on. The Ámbédkar School wants to show that anyone can make it until the final exam, if the
right methods are used to motivate and teach them. They work with their own educational
program adapted to the mostly eighteen - twenty-two years old students, based on the
Waldorf-method, using always examples and stories that are closely connected to their lives.
Spirituality also has a positive role in forming their minds. János Orsós, once a kid with the
same background, now president of the Jai Bhim Network and lead teacher at the School,
converted to Buddhism after his journey to India. As he explains, the most important lesson
that he got from Dr Ambedkar, is that if he takes his fate in his hands, he can change it. In the
village, they have spiritual sessions three times a week, where they meditate or listen and
discuss Buddhist lessons, often with Indian guest teachers. Of course most of these people did
not fully abandon their Christian roots, but here they could build up a welcoming community
– instead of the local church, where they feel being looked-down. This community not only
gives them warmth and inspiration, but also values like the appreciation of hard work, the
trust in their own power or simply the pride for their own, Roma culture.

Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 6
The future unknown
Despite the difficulties like the lack of political or community support, and the complexity
of the problem, Tibor Derdák has an optimistic view of the project. The first school of this
type (Kis Tigris) has already measurable success: it already issued students with final exams
and eight out of their nine applying graduates were admitted at the University of Pécs last
year. The Dr Ámbédkar School did not have any graduating class yet, but Derdák refers to the
positive example of those two kids whose families they used to work with and who study at
the university now. He believes that demonstrating that these children and young people are
able to finish school and get a proper job just like everyone else, will effectively help them to
move out from their segregated situation and fit in to society.

3. Mission and values

As we could see, the Jai Bhim Network and the Dr Ámbédkar School aim to provide an
effective help for children of poor families living in a remote and highly disadvantaged area
by creating an educational program that would lead them to the final exam, thus opening the
way to the job market. Besides education, they also take a mission in developing the local
Roma community, building values and empowering them to see their life as a perspective.
They are not only taking care of these village people, but they are also involving them into a
change, demanding their work and commitment – so that they will be equally responsible for
their future.
The people they are working with are now living in complete segregation, outside of the
scope of public development programs, surrounded by distrust and hate from behalf of the
non-Roma majority. This extreme position makes them able to take the example of the
untouchables of India, who followed Ambedkar’s pragmatic movement and his dedication to
hard work and dignity. Their mission is thus based on a strong commitment to human rights
and the idea of equal chances. They believe that the latter might not be fully made, but
significantly improved by education, so this is where they work the most. Unlike at the
aforementioned Gandhi Gimnázium (Secondary School), at the Dr Ámbédkar School they try
to reach everybody, not to select only the most talented children. They are trying to solve the
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 7 problem of segregation, to show that these people are just like everyone else. Accordingly,
they declare that the methods they use are nothing different from those applied in other
schools; they are just adapted to the special conditions.
Due to this social mission, the Jai Bhim Network has taken a few actions beyond the scope
of their main activity. Following a recent criminal case against a village person caught on
electricity theft, they recently made a petition against his imprisonment and raised sizable
funds from private individuals (on a Budapest film festival) to set up a pre-paid system for the
electricity consumption. But the project failed despite the desire of Roma families to resolve
this problem, as both the electricity provider and the local authority resisted.

4. Analysis of the author

The case of the Jai Bhim Network is certainly a unique initiative not only in Hungary but
probably in the whole Europe. Applying Buddhist philosophy and the values of a human
rights movement to pull out Roma communities from their marginal position – just as
Ambedkar did with the untouchables – is a truly innovative solution in the Eastern-European
field, where the exclusion of the gypsies has a history of several hundred years.
The disadvantageous, or sometimes even hostile social and political environment, the fact
that no institution seemed to be caring about these people (besides the state providing the
same allowances and quotas as to everyone else), led Tibor Derdák and his colleagues to the
idea that they have to rely on themselves and provide something that empowers local people
to do so as well. Buddhist philosophy was not only an ideal “independent actor” in the
political scene, but it could provide a strong, credible and acceptable spiritual basis to build
values and trust.
It is interesting to note, that this was already the third example of a Buddhist-Roma school
in Hungary, thus being apparently a successful model. The question arises, what is there that
makes these oriental views so acceptable for a completely different and distant ethnic group?
One of the reasons might be the same why Buddhism became so popular in the West in the
past few decades: it matches with some basic values of our capitalist society, responds to the
disenchantment with consumerism and remains “profane” enough for the skeptical – to name
a few from a certainly laic perspective. On the other hand, it might have some links to the
observation that Roma communities have lost much of the cohesive power of traditional
culture: there are a few other examples that show that adopting a religion might help to
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 8rediscover this cohesion and build up a new value-system. With respect to the latter, the
people of Sajókaza were lucky enough to find an ideal spiritual leader in the figure of Dr
Ambedkar, the man with the same background, who made it to the top thanks to his strong
But with or without Buddhism, the Jai Bhim Network is there to demonstrate that these
children and young adults, usually considered being lazy, troublesome and unintelligent in
any normal school, are actually just like any other kid, with the same desire for a secure
future, for success and self-esteem. And in this particular environment this initiative is truly
innovative, as no one believed it would be possible.

5. Sources

- Farkas Ágnes (2008): “Azt kell fésülni, aki kócos”, Népszabadság.
- Gautam, C. (2000): “Life of Babasaheb Ambedkar”, London, Ambedkar Memorial Trust;
also at , retrieved on the
- “Interjú Derdák Tiborral” (2007), at, retrieved on 4/02/2011
- Jai Bhim Network. “How do we operate?” at,
retrieved on 4/02/2011
- Kiss Julianna. “Tigrisugrás – Derdák Tibor, a Dr Ábmédkar Gimnázium igazgatója”, at, retrieved on the
- Kovácsy Tibor. “Áramvonalak – Sajókazai változások”, at, retrieved on 4/02/2011
- Pardeep: “Sajókaza Dreams!”, at, retrieved on the
- Szocháló. “Elindult az ország legnagyobb tanodaprogramja”, at, retrieved on 4/02/2011.
- Urfi Péter (2010). “Gimnázium és nyári tábor cigányoknak – ellenszélben”, Magyar
Narancs, n° XXII/30.
Nárai Csilla – Fiche d’initiative: «Jai Bhim Network Hungary» - février 2011 9