16.09.2009September 15th: a new beginning

Hundreds of children entered the schools on September 15 all over Bulgaria with the start of the new school year. For many students in Veliko Turnovo municipality the school year has started owing to the work of Center Amalipe and Veliko Turnovo Municipality within the project “Introducing intercultural education and equal access to quality education” financed by the European Social Fund through Human Resources Development Operational Program. Eight children from Malki Chiflik (a village situated 5 km from Veliko Turnovo) started the new school year in Vela Blagoeva School in Veliko Turnovo. Dressed in new cloths, with flowers in hands and smiles on faces, accompanied by their parents they timidly entered the school. Their fears that Bulgarian children would not accept them did not come true. The teachers quickly helped the children feel comfortable and relaxing giving: they had prepared for each student a star with her/his name and made sure that each of the new fellows quickly found friends in the new class. Parents’ fears that their children would be refused “because we are from minority origin” also turned to be wrong. Dispersed not more than two or three kids in a class they promptly manage to adapt and to find new friends. The school director Angel Yanchev had prepared in advance the teachers in whose classes the Roma children had been enrolled. The teachers found this rather as a challenge that would make children, school and themselves better. They expect the training for work in multicultural environment Center Amalipe would organize especially for them. It was not easy to achieve all these. We have worked with the mayor of Malki Chiflik, with the informal leaders of the local community, with the parents as well as with the principal of Vela Blagoeva School: otherwise achieving anything would have been impossible. The school principal clearly realized that education of all children – Bulgarian and Roma – is important and although his school had 99 % Bulgarian kids he decided not only to enrol Roma children but also to pay from the delegated school budget their bussing to the school. During the numerous parent meetings we had organized parents understood that education of their children was important and choosing the best school in Veliko Turnovo was a key for the success of their kids. They were convinced that in this school their children would be at a safe place and would not be discriminated as “gypsies”. Once we have managed to gain their confidence they became the biggest supporters for the education of their kids.
The first school day was also a big challenge for 19 children from Vodoley. Ledenik and Balvan who have graduated primary schools in June and now continue their education in high schools in Veliko Turnovo. Achieving this was also a difficult task. Secondary education was quite an exception for the Roma communities in these villages and no parents intended to support it. We’ve been through numerous parent meetings, visits and conversations with every parent and finally we organized – together with the Education Directorate of Veliko Turnovo Municipality a trip to all professional gymnasiums in Veliko Turnovo. But the biggest merit was of the children themselves. That is why we organized a celebration for them in the school of Vodoley. 

We decided to do it in Vodoley because these children were the first kids who (eight years ago) have started to study Roma folklore classed within the program of Center Amalipe. Eight years ago they were small first-graders but they gave credit to our idea to discover page by page the wealth of Roma folklore. Together with them we have developed manuals and school materials for creating a school environment sensitive to the needs of all children. Now, 8 years later all of them (with exception of only one kid) will continue their education in high schools in Veliko Turnovo which is the biggest proof for our common success.
Many villagers of Vodoley came to the celebration to support the eighth-graders: the school principal of Vodoley, the mayor of Voidoley, the chair of the Education Directorate of Veliko Turnovo municipality, dozens of parents and many other friends who have supported during these 8 years our efforts to introduce Roma folklore subject. The spirit was really festive and the celebration seemed as a graduation ball. In our stile of course: with Djelem, Djelem and Sa e Roma (Hederlezi), with many Bulgarian and Roma songs and dances. The music of Vodoley Roma band “Dalas’ and the passion of all guests and participants did an unforgettable celebration. It gave faith to all the ninth-graders to continue and finish their secondary education.

And if you want to see how the present ninth-graders looked years ago and how they grew up you can visit our short movie at:


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