The Government education system in Bulgaria does not encourage critical thinking by children. Students are fed a daily diet of “correct” official facts and an official one dimensional perspective on Bulgarian history. The post war communist regime and its impact upon ordinary Bulgarians is rarely mentioned in text books. As a result young people have no understanding of totalitarianism and conversely no real knowledge of democracy, civil society, pluralism, diversity, gender issues.
Markovo is a village in the Rodopi region of Bulgaria. Its population is approximately 4000 people.
As a post communist country Bulgaria is struggling with coming to term with democracy. Currently there is no “open to all” after school education service provision in the village. Parents have to pay for and transport their children to and from Plovdiv (the nearest large town) if they are working full time. A locally established After School Project would have a viable customer base saving parents both time and money.The current problems in Europe with populism, nationalism and the rise of extremist political parties means that Bulgarian children are particularly vulnerable to indoctrination, the impact of fake news and manipulation by mainstream media. A modern progressive after school and summer school project will challenge students to think critically.
Developing democratic ideas and engagement in the future starts with young people. Liberal concepts such as critical thinking, pluralism, tolerance, gender equality etc. need to be formally taught. Learning such important concepts cannot be left to chance as is the current approach in the post communist Bulgarian education system. Children and young people need to understand that democracy does work and that ideologies such as populism and nationalism only lead to oppression, discrimination and conflict.
The target group is young people and children living in the village of Markovo aged 8 to 16 years who do not have access to local after school educational provision or summer school because they attend school in the nearby town of Plovdiv. We want to establish an after school and summer school education project in the local village of Markovo.
1. Establish local NGO. 2. Rehabilitate Co-op building to provide classrooms. 3. Recruit Project staff. 4. Promote and market the school project. 5 Recruit / sign up students. 6. Impliment the teaching program. The children will receive talks by visiting speakers who are established figures in the Bulgarian civil rights movement. A programme of visits for the children will organised to run in conjunction with classroom learning. This will include visiting local organisations and institutions such as the local Mayors office, Plovdiv prison, local businesses etc. using the project mini bus.
The after school project will work between 1.30 pm until 6.00pm Monday - Friday during School term time. The summer school element of the Project will work only during school holidays 8.00am until 6.00pm
1. A successful after school and summer school project enpowering children in the village.
2. A healthy and strong community spirit and a good understanding of democratic and humanitarian values in children and young people who attend the project and their parents.
3. The establishment of a local NGO managed by interested members of the local village community to oversee the running of the children’s education project.
4. A Volunteer Programme will be created for interested local people to work at the project.
5. Free and / or subsidised places at the Project for local disadvantaged children.
6. The Project will be self financing in year 2 and beyond from school fees recieved from parents.
Democracy is a fragile thing as evidenced by the history of Europe. Children and young people are the future of Europe, Bulgaria is no exception. Educating children and young people about democracy, liberal social values, human rights and the dangers of populism and nationalism means that they are empowered. Thus they are able to fully participate in the democratic process and civic society from a position of knowledge and not ignorance. Education is not "value free". Children and young people need to be encouraged to think in a critical way about history and see the dangers of populism and nationalism. Europe is at a crossroads. Now is the time to act at a local level.
I have spent the majority of my adult life working in the field of childrens and womens rights and international developement. For example, two years in Kosovo and Albania after the war working for an NGO and Unicef and three years in Zambia working for the United Nations (UNFPA). I am comitted to human rights and believe in democracy, gender equality, civil society, pluralism and diversity. My project team is committed to a peaceful and integrated Europe. Children are our collective future
Funding requested from Civic Europe
3 F.T.E Teachers (600 euro pcm) 21,600 euro
Rehabilitation of Cooperative building for classrooms 6,000 euro
I.T equipment / School furnishings / teaching materials 11,500 euro
Minibus / fuel / maintenance 6,000 euro
Rent of Coop building 2nd floor (150 pcm) for classrooms 1,800 euro
Promotion marketing / fundraising 2,000 euro
All advice, comments and feedback are welcome from all stakeholders. In my experience in managing NGOs and international development projects sharing information and knowledge benefits everybody.