Democratic elections for school ombudsmen were held in more than 30 schools from the Amalipe Center network

During the 2022/2023 academic year, the Amalipe Center launched a program to stimulate student activity, civic participation, and self-management. After conducting youth training and a youth conference in October 2023, participants came up with the idea of holding elections for student ombudsmen in their schools.

In the context of many schools already having Student Parliaments or councils, the initiative for a School Ombudsman appears as an innovative practice. Supported by the Amalipe Center, this idea quickly gained popularity and was even presented to the National Ombudsman, Prof. Dr. Diana Kovacheva, who warmly embraced it and offered to patronize the campaign.

The aim of the initiative is to increase civic activity among young people and familiarize them with the powers of the student ombudsman. It also seeks to establish the position of the school ombudsman in the participating schools, providing new opportunities for students to voice their concerns and find a trusted individual who can represent them, advocating for their rights. The initiative is part of the project “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance,” implemented by the Amalipe Center.

Two schools that are part of the Amalipe Center network, “Every student will be a winner” for many years, Ivan Nikolov Momchilov High School in Elena and Angel Karaliychev High School in Strazhitsa, have initiated the tradition of electing an ombudsman in their schools long ago. They have been pioneers of the idea within our network. The school in Elena has had an ombudsman for 10 years, regularly elected through elections. Some of their ombudsmen have even met with the Ombudsmen of the Republic of Bulgaria. In Strazhitsa High School, the elections for the student ombudsman are scheduled by the principal. A Central School Election Commission (CSEC) is appointed by the Pedagogical Council, upon the principal’s proposal. The commission includes students, parents, teachers, and community members. Candidates are from grades V to XI and register with the CSEC. Next, teachers-consultants are selected from the candidates, teams of candidates are registered and announced. Candidates cannot choose names that correspond to or resemble those of Bulgarian political parties, according to the register of the National Audit Office. The decision on the eligibility of the name is made by the CSEC. The process also includes organizing and conducting training for the candidates, creating pre-election websites, and publishing platforms by the candidates. Meetings between students and the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria are held. Registration of students from grades I to XII who wish to vote for the student ombudsman online is conducted. Public debates among candidates are held; integral ballots are printed, and an information campaign on the voting procedure is carried out. Angel Karaliychev High School in Strazhitsa shares that “By organizing elections, interaction and teamwork between teachers, students, and parents are stimulated. The development and affirmation of the young person as a citizen are supported.”

The student ombudsman is elected by the students themselves in the respective school and must be an active student in the same school. Over the

past few months, more than 30 schools have conducted their democratic elections and have their first school ombudsmen. The elections were conducted in various ways, but in many places, all or most of the real elements of the electoral processes were present, allowing students from a young age to engage with real civic processes.

For instance, at Lyuben Karavelov High School in Varna, elections for the ombudsman were conducted with ballots, a real booth, and an urn, organized in a manner analogous to actual elections. Following the elections, which took place at the end of October 2023, the ombudsman actively participated in resolving issues, representing the interests of students to the school management and the Student Council.

At Dobri Zhelyazkov Vocational High School in Sliven, the elections were held in two rounds, allowing students to gain a real understanding of the electoral process. They became acquainted with all the accompanying activities of the elections, such as pre-election campaigns, election halls, electoral lists, and others. This experience gives them the opportunity to understand the importance of their role in the educational environment. See more here.

In another innovative approach, the ombudsman of Tzanko Bakalov Tserkovski High School in Nikola Kozlevo was elected. The Student Council organized a meeting where elections for the Student Ombudsman were held. Following secret balloting and candidate presentations, a representative was elected, who took on their role with seriousness and commitment.

Even though the students at Hristo Botev Elementary School in Burgas are young, this did not prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They organized a democratic election for the student ombudsman with active participation from the students. This process, resembling real elections, helps young people understand the importance of their voices and engage with public issues.

Younger students are not afraid of important responsibilities, as demonstrated by the ombudsmen of primary and unified schools. For example, at Hristo Smirnenski Elementary School in General Toshevo, elections for the school ombudsman were held for the first time on January 26, 2024. Three candidates participated in the competition: No. 1 – Svetoslav Todorov from

Class 7A, No. 2 – Georgi Georgiev from Class 5A, and No. 3 – Zeyra Angelova from Class 6A. Voting was conducted through secret ballots, and Svetoslav Todorov was elected in the first round. The ombudsman of the school is a position in the student self-government tasked with protecting students before the school management if their rights are violated. The ombudsman makes proposals and recommendations to the management and the Pedagogical Council for the restoration of students’ violated rights, accepts and considers complaints and signals of students’ rights violations, but can also act on their own initiative when it is observed that the necessary conditions for the protection of students’ rights are not being created.

But even among the older students, there was interest. Elections were also held at the Professional High School of Agricultural Mechanization in Septemvri. The election of the student ombudsman was conducted as follows: Several names of students who are members of the Student Parliament were proposed for each class, and the students had to vote. Maria Vasileva from the XI grade received the most votes.

It was a significant day for the students of the Professional High School of Light Industry, Ecology, and Chemical Technologies in Yambol as well! “Success in learning, striving for knowledge, and realizing dreams for the future. May this day, after years, become your holiday.” This was the wish of the members of the Student Parliament before their meeting to elect the ombudsman by the school’s director, Engineer Teodora Suleva. “All students can count on my help whenever they need it. I will work tirelessly for the benefit of all high school students,” stated eighth-grader Ivelin Ivanov after being elected as the ombudsman for the students of the Professional High School of Light Industry, Ecology, and Chemical Technologies. At a meeting of the Student Council of the school held on December 8, the teenager was chosen to defend the interests of his fellow students. His election was made with only two more votes than the second proposal of the council’s composition, ninth-grader Veselina Teneva. Out of all 12 members, 7 supported Ivelin, while 5 votes were in favor of Vesi. Initially, the position of ombudsman was proposed to be held by Teodora Ilieva from the 11th grade, but she declined, stating that she preferred to give priority to younger students, who have more time left to study at the high school.

These examples demonstrate the commitment and desire of young people to have a voice in the school environment and to fight for their rights and interests. The initiative for a school ombudsman not only strengthens democratic values in schools but also prepares students for active participation in public life. Selected schools with their ombudsmen include Professional High School of Engineering “Penyo Penev”, Burgas; Vocational School of Agriculture “Kliment Arkadyevich Timiryazev”, Kavarna; Unified School “Hristo Botev”, Kaspichan; Secondary School “Trayko Simeonov”, Shumen; Sports School “Drustur”, Silistra; Secondary School “Khan Asparuh”, Novi pazar; Secondary School “St. Cyril and Methodius”, Smyadovo; Primary School “Hristo Smirnenski”, Obrochishte; Professional High School of Transport and Light Industry, Omurtag; Primary School “Hristo Botev”, Muglizh; Secondary School “St. Paisii Hilendarski”, Varbitsa; Secondary School “Sts. Cyril and Methodius”, Smyadovo; Professional High School of Agriculture, Targovishte; Vocational School of Agriculture, Shumen; Secondary School “Vladimir Komarov”, Veliko Tarnovo; Unified School “Hristo Botev”, Dulgo Pole; Secondary School “Vasil Levski”, Vulchi Dol; Vocational School of Agriculture “St. George the Victorious”, Suvorovo; Professional High School of Agriculture, Novi pazar; Vocational School of Agriculture “Todor Rachinski”, General Toshevo. Elections are yet to take place in more locations.

The initiative is carried out within the framework of the project “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance,” which is implemented with the support of the U.S. State Department through the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria.




More about the iniative see here:

Amalipe Center initiative: election of a student ombudsman in Bulgarian schools