Bulgarian schools: Forced donations and a lack of transparency

Written by on November 29, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgarian schools: Forced donations and a lack of transparency

Bulgarian National Television (BNT) just re-examined a problem parents of schoolchildren run into in many cases. They are being forced to donate fixed amounts of money to the state schools their children attend. The problem: State schools are being funded by the state. And donations should never be forced or fixed.

Especially in Sofia, many schools seem to be sticking to that policy, in spite of a warning letter all schools received from Bulgaria’s Minister of Education, Krassimir Velchev, after the summer holidays. His definition of how schools can be supported does not include forced donations.

Many parents are upset. First of all, there are many who simply can not afford to donate anything to anyone. Secondly, they disagree with the forced donations policy and with the pressure applied to them. Kids whose parents have not paid those “donations” are being reminded constantly.

But complaining to the authorities is something most parents are refraining from, because they fear their children might be the ones who have to suffer the consequences. This problem also applies to complaints about bad teachers, educators who bully and even hit children.

Those so-called donations schools expect from the parents amount to 10 to 50 leva per child, while the amounts are higher at kindergardens. BNT quoted a parent who said schools claimed they used the money collected for external teachers who come in to teach some classes, even though they receive salaries as well.

Another complaint is the lack of transparency. It seems state schools refrain from publishing the amount of money forcefully “donated” to them. Nor do they list the expenses they cover with that money.

There is another aspect which is more than weird, in connection with those “donations”: The state of the infrastructure in many state schools is bad. At some institutions, children do not go to the bathrooms, which do not deserve that expression anyway. Neither do they have lockable doors, nor toilet paper or warm water. Parents who do have the courage to complain, hear the same answer over and over: “We have no money.”

At one large state school in Sofia, unpaid electricity bills even lead to power outages at times. At least that is what teachers told the children. In one case, a math teacher predicted an outage the next day, due to open bills. That prediction turned out to be accurate, and the children were sent home the next day.

In front of BNT, Vanya Kastreva, the head of the Regional Education Directorate in Sofia promised to check the situation.

Even at state schools considered the best in Sofia, transparency is not to be expected. This does not only apply to “forced donations”, but also to school trips.

Recently, a trip to a foreign country was planned for 8th-graders at one of those schools. They collected 500 leva as a down-payment. A few weeks later, they wanted another 500 leva. And just before the trip, parents had to pay yet another amount.

There is no proof, but that trip for schoolkids seemed to serve as a source for money, since it was too expensive and because there was no transparency. On top of that, the kids looked at sightseeing spots only. There was not a single educational benefit. from the perspective of many parents.

But all of this is only the tip of the iceberg of issues in this country’s educational system.

All photos by Imanuel Marcus.

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