BACZKAMADARASI KIS GERGELY REFORMED COLLEGE – Odorheiu Secuiesc
The year 1670. A year of riots and fraught with danger. In spring, the anti-Habsburg uprising erupts in Sárospatak, under the leadership of Ferenc Rákóczi I. .Then, in the fall, the disloyalty lawsuit of the main defendants of the Wesselényi-conspiracy begins. One month later Comenius, the father of modern pedagogy, dies.
For us, however, the year 1670 is significant for some other reason. The representative of the Transylvanian nobility, Count Bethlen János, who graduated from the University of Frankfurt, the Chancellor of Transylvania, the chief-captain of Udvarhelyszék, donated 1000 pieces of gold, so that the primary school from Székelyudvarhely should be given the status of grammar school. This set the school off on its historical journey.
Between 1670 and 1900 the College had 43 administrators, from which 15 people were members of the founder Bethlen family and the 43rd person was Ugron János, the sub-prefect of Udvarhely county. All 15 members of the Bethlen family were donator patrons. Two of them are worthy of mentioning: one of them was Count Bethlen Dávid, who in 1716 donated a big seal to the College, on the upper side of which a rose bush is engraved with the following words around it: “Per spinas ad rosas”. All these are surrounded by a snake with a book in its mouth, and the inscription: “Sigillum gymnazii ref. Bethleniano – Udvarhlyjensis”. The coat of arms can be seen in several places inside the new building on the pillars of the ground floor.
The other important person was senior Count Bethlen János, who was one of the leading personalities of the Szeklers in 1848.
In the 18th century many famous teachers from abroad were invited to give lectures in this school so the College became one of the most renowned schools of the time. Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely excels all others with his uncompromising faith, organizational skills and human greatness. We consider him to be the second founder of our school. He arranged the building to be expanded with a 45-room wing and the construction of the Reformed Church is also connected to his name. The “K.G. 1782” inscription on colorful tiles, on the roof of the church was created to pay tribute to his memory. In the late 19th century, with the growing number of students, the school building seemed too small again. Fund-raising activities were initiated. The dwellers of Székelyudvarhely were willing to make contributions.
The idea of attaching a new wing to the building was raised, but they decided to expand the building with a second floor instead. Thus, between 1886 and1887 the school-building was remodeled inside and out. The attic rooms, the bell-room disappeared, the windows were enlarged. This is how the school gets its present-day appearance.
Gönczi Lajos continued the work started by Kis Gergely, being the designer and the executor of the new school building. When the school building was finished the Reformed Church had modern school supplies and equipment brought from Wien. This inventory is considered to be relatively modern even nowadays. The educational and training activity was disturbed by World War I. After the Treaty from Trianon the College started its activity following the curriculum of the Romanian secondary schools.
With the 1927 – 1928 school year a new chapter began in the history of the College. The general assembly of the Kolozsvár county diocese decided to stop the functioning of the College as grammar school for an undetermined period of time and instead, the Reformed Teachers’ Training College from Nagyenyed, established in 1917, would be transferred here. The College preserved its religious denominational character and its spirituality until 1948. From then on it has been functioning as state Teacher’s Training School, surviving the genocidal storms of communism, through which the Hungarian classes have almost been completely abolished. The events from 1989 saved the institution from this source of danger due to which Hungarian students can continue their education in Hungarian. The 1989 turn of events provided an opportunity for schools to step out of their former anonymity and take on the name of a famous personality.
The Reformed High School that restarted its activity in 1994 and became independent in 2001 adopted the name “Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely Reformed College”, during the naming ceremony between October the 25th -27th, 2002 paying tribute to the famous school- and church builder Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely.
Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely (1737-1787) – school and church builder
Szakács Mózes (1828-1894) – newspaper editor (Udvarhelyi Híradó), pedagogical writer
Gönczi Lajos (1852-1929) – natural science writer and literary historian
Haáz F. Rezső (1883-1958) – etnographer, graphic artist
Haáz Sándor (1912-2007) – choreographer, etnographer
Orbán Balázs (1829-1890) – writer, ethnographic collector, photographer, „the Greatest Szekler”
Benedek Elek (1859-1929) – writer, journalist, newspaper editor
Fülöp Áron (1861-1920) – Szekler poet
Seprődi János (1874-1923) – musicologist, writer, folk song collector, folklorist
Ravasz László (1882-1975) – writer of philosophy and theology
Rajk László (1909-1949) – politician
Palló Imre (1891-1978) – singer, opera singer
Csanádi György (1895-1952) – poet, journalist, author of the Szekler Anthem (Székely himnusz)
Dávid Gyula (1928-) – literary historian, journalist, editor
Dr. Dávid László (1932-2007) – pastor, art historian
Kányádi Sándor (1929-2018) – poet, literary translator
Characteristics and unique features of the institution
All of us who work at Refi, in Udvarhely believe that through personal relationships pupils feel better and more secure within the walls of the school, their attachment to the institution is stronger. We are proud of the family atmosphere inside the school walls and which can only be experienced, not talked about. Our goal is to educate our pupils in the Christian spirit, to shape their personalities harmoniously. Our aim is to educate pupils to be able to learn independently and to make sure that they have a sense of attachment to their school, town, motherland and church. The alpha and omega of our institutional existence is Christian spirituality.
The Reformed Church in the town centre is close to us not only physically but spiritually as well. We attend church services here on Mondays, this is the place where we start the school year in September and end it in June. We even have our own way of celebrating our religious holidays. During Advent a week is dedicated to celebrating love, we organize the Christmas fair, during the Carnival period teachers and parents have fun together. The result of all this is that we look at each other as members of a large family.
Current situation of our institution in numbers
Pre-school: 4 kindergarten groups / Elementary school: 10 classes / Secondary school: 8 classes / High school: 8 classes. The division of classes in high school according to their profile is as follows: Theology-Intensive English / Social Science- Intensive English and Natural Sciences-Mathematics-Informatics. There are currently 803 children/pupils studying in our school.
The teacher community consists of 53 members whose work is supported by an 11-member auxiliary staff. The day care staff consists of 7 kindergarten teachers and an enthusiastic 5-person auxiliary staff. There are 8 people in the administration section (accountant, secretaries, laboratory technician, administrator, system administrator, dorm parents)
Learning outcomes and pupil performance
In the academic year 2019/2020 pupils’ transition rates were as follows:
Baccalaureate exam: The pupil transition rate for the summer exam period was 82.14%, which made our school the third most successful school in town. The passing grade average before grade complaints was 7.7, the highest grade being 8.91. This average was improved during the fall exam period, when 7 pupils out of 11 managed to achieve the passing grade, so the graduation grade average rose to 92.98%.
The National Test at the end of the 8th grade: The average grade of the three examination subjects was 7.35. Number of pupils who enrolled for the exam: 57. This result ranked our school fourth in town.
Due to its ecclesiastical character, our school is the property of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District. As a result, it has extra opportunities for development, receiving both church and state subsidies.
The Hungarian State has sponsored the institution with more than 100 million HUF in the recent period, as well as the Transylvanian Reformed Church District, that has made a significant contribution to the renovation of the building and sponsored the expansion of the school equipment. At the same time, we mustn’t forget about our enthusiastic American sponsors, individuals with Transylvanian ties.
Our school is relatively well-equipped. Between 2007 and 2020 we managed to renovate the exterior of the buildings, from top to bottom. The kitchen, the cafeteria, the laboratories, the gym and the bathrooms of the boarding school could also be renovated. All these could be realized from grant support. Our plans include the construction of a new school block, housing 13 classrooms and a gym, to which the financial background is already provided.
Perspectives and opinions on Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely Reformed College
“I am quoting the founder of our school Count Bethlen János with memorable grace, who disposed of his dead daughter’s dowry 350 years ago as follows:
“ I, Bethlen János, having in view that Lord has made me the intendant of ephemeral earthly goods, wishing to do my Christian best , I left as legacy to the good Christian school from Udvarhely 1000 pieces of gold…”.
This is a wonderful manifestation of his faith in God. This is what we need to keep in mind in order to raise youngsters who are responsible for their families, for the church, for their homeland and for their peers. For this to happen, I ask God’s blessing on the joint work of teachers and students.”
Tőkés Zsolt, school principal
“Eighteen years ago, when I crossed the threshold of the Reformed College in Cluj-Napoca, I wouldn’t have thought that the College, as an institution, would have such a huge impact on my life. I have been experiencing the same thing within the walls of Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely Reformed College, in Odorheiu Secuiesc for six years now.
The school has a “soul”. A perfect school may not even exist, but there sure is a school where you go to with pleasure as a teacher or as a pupil, where teaching is not considered to be a job, rather than a creation and a challenge. It is a challenge to make every possible effort to preserve the Transylvanian-Hungarian intellectual and religious heritage at school. Real “art” is to strive to fit the national identity, both in terms of faith and culture, into the value system of the pupils, making this possible for them in such a way that whoever leaves this place could take this heritage package along.
A perfect school may not exist, but it feels good to enter a school, where they care about building a better community, where the school is truly a common world of teachers and pupils, where the teachers don’t only concentrate on knowledge transfer but on awareness-raising.
Strengthened by God’s blessings, may the Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely Reformed College continue to be the school of “a little bit more”.”
Szász Lóránt-Levente, teacher
“Let me be young once again and project myself into the events of the 90s! Those were sensational, feverish years in the life of the schools as well, with many changes and hopefulness. The great event, namely that the school of the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania from Odorheiu Secuiesc could return to its rightful owner was a celebration for us all.
As a teacher of the re-established school community I was part of the enthusiastic planning process, ideas and work. The first couple of years were dynamic and eventful. The Reformed education and the school life were made up of mosaic pieces. We are thankful for the trust that our pupils and their parents have placed into religious education in the years of re-establishment. Our first classes were set up; a modest, kind, intimate community of teachers and pupils.
During the fall foliage it was nice to remember, to evoke the special spirit of the school, I am glad that I was a teacher at Refi… and every time I walk past the school I always have the feeling that “I left a piece of my life here”. It was worth it. ”
Sándor Judit, retired teacher
“Becoming a parent is a wonderful thing. It is not only a challenge, but a great responsibility at the same time. You have to make a series of decisions until you set your child on his designated path and then you end up questioning all the choices you’ve made: Did I make the right decision? For me, one of the most important decisions that I had to make was to choose the school where they would learn and get prepared for life.
We are all well aware of the significant role that school plays in a child’s life alongside his family. It was important for me to direct them to a school where they will not only acquire a great deal of knowledge, but where they would be educated in the spirit of Christian values, where their primary teachers, secondary school teachers and form masters would assign as much importance to spirituality as to knowledge. We opted for the Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely Reformed College and we didn’t regret it. We feel like we made the right decision.
Faith, knowledge, nourishing traditions and paying attention to one another all play an equally important role in this school. Here, my children benefit of an additional education that I have always wanted for them to get. Not only do they acquire knowledge, but they also have their characters shaped. They belong to a community, where they can feel safe, in a cozy atmosphere. School programmes, celebrations, sister classes bring them closer and closer to their peers and teach them to not only care for their own progress, but to pay attention to others, to help each other and how to walk together on this common path with God. ”
Dénes Andrea, parent
“The concept of school means something different to a parent, a teacher, a pupil and even to the cleaning lady. The school Refi occupies a unique place in pupils’ lives, in their way of thinking, and in their worlds of emotions. For some it’s a bother, for others it is vibrancy.
The school bell rings, the pupils crowd in. Surprises, secrets, labyrinths, unanswered questions, unexpected answers, jokes, teasing, boring-exciting moments, strangers and good friends welcome us. It’s a hotchpotch, isn’t it? The unique spirit, the otherness of the school is highlighted by the colorful world of the boarding school, the sound of the choir and the school band, the mobility of the student council, the perseverance of the basketball team, the scouts’ activity, the special human relationships and this list could go on and on.
The little bell rings in the inner courtyard, we say goodbye to each other. We didn’t understand this hotchpotch in these four, eight or even twelve years, we just lived in it. When we step into adult life, we can cling to these experiences so that the rest can come on top of it “on its own”. ”
Iszlai Virág Júlia, XII. B
Once you’ve seen the building of the”Baczkamadarasi Kis Gergely” Reformed College from Odorheiu Secuiesc, you have surely noticed that it is a majestic building in the town centre, the surroundings of which are full of life from early morning to late afternoon. And if you have already attended it as a pupil or perhaps you have taught here, you would know why this school is different from other schools.
The community of this school is intertwined with something which is not obvious, not visible, it can only be sensed. The breaks always seem to have a special atmosphere. The pupils from the elementary school greet each other and their teachers enthusiastically. Older pupils hang out in groups on the corridors, having a great time together. During lessons the silence is often broken by the enthusiastic singing of one of the classes or the energetic cheers coming from the sports ground.
For me, the school Refi means exciting trips, intimate church services and one of a kind lessons.
This school is our world, our home, the venue of our special way of life that will be so good to remember.
Lukács Lilla, XII. B
edited, translated by Hajdu Krisztina – Timea