Minister of Education acad. Nikolay Denkov and Deputy Prime Minister Borislav Sandov awarded the Educational Mediator of the Year 2021
“Center “Amalipe”, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities held an official ceremony for the awarding of “Educational Mediator of the Year”, the grand prize was received by Nikolay Ognyanov, educational mediator at the school “Hristo Smirnenski” in town of. He was the winner of the award. The award ceremony was attended by the Minister of Education and Science Academician Nikolay Denkov, Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policies and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov, H. Amb. Martina Feeney – Ambassador of Ireland to the Republic of Bulgaria, Lalo Kamenov – Director of Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities, Assoc. Prof. Joseph Nunev, Sara Perin – Director of TSA and Deyan Kolev – Chairman of CIDT “Amalipe”. The ceremony took place on January 13th at the Ministry of Education and Science, hours before “Vasilitsa” – the Roma New Year. Find out who are the other winners here. Many important messages were delivered by the officials present.
In his welcome address, Academician Nikolay Denkov congratulated all educational mediators for their tireless work, saying that “educational mediators are fighting for the children of Bulgaria to have a future. This is most important! They are the people on whom the education system is based to a large extent. Without educational mediators it would be impossible to implement such important issues in the education system”. The Minister of Education added: “The people we work with at the Amalipe Center, Deyan Kolev, Teodora Krumova know that our door is always open to the problems of educational mediators. I know that we are coming to the end of the project “Support for Success”, which ends in June 2022, and we will do everything necessary to solve these problems so that all educational mediators feel calm about their work, because their calmness should be transferred to the parents with whom they work”.
Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policies and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov said that “educational mediators are the heroes of our time, the people who manage to bring children back to school and through whom the integration process happens”. In his opening address, the Deputy Prime Minister compared educational mediators to bees, saying. They make the world a better place, even though not every single bee is known. You, the educational mediators, communicate with the parents, the children, the educational institutions, but your work cannot be measured simply because your efforts take time to get your results, but we know that you make a huge difference in our society.”
There was also a greeting from the chairman of the Center “Amalipe” Deyan Kolev, who congratulated all present at the ceremony, telling them the legend of Vasilitsa and shared:
“The celebration of Vasilitsa is linked to the legend of St. Basil – the advocate and defender of the Roma. He restored the bridge over which the Roma were crossing after this bridge had been destroyed by the Devil or God and saved the drowning Roma. There is something very symbolic in the fact that the new year for the Roma community begins with the rebuilding of bridges, and what I would like to wish our politicians, mediators and everyone present is that throughout the year we rebuild bridges. Many of them have been destroyed in Bulgaria and we need to rebuild them – the bridges between us. I would like to thank the Ministry of Education and Science for making sure that all the children who did not have devices for education in the distance learning in a remote environment were given them last year. You announced this back in July during a meeting with principals from the network “Every student will be a winner”, and you did it through the state budget. This is very important because, at the very least, the minimum, that all schools have devices to provide to children in cases of distance learning in a remote environment, already has it. Also, thank you for continuing the Support for Success project, which was supposed to end at the end of August 2021. About 700 education mediators, some of whom were present at the ceremony, have been appointed under the Support for Success project. The project has been extended until 30 June 2022 so that the education mediators can continue their work until then. We trust and rely on you and your team. We rely on you for several things:
- For educational integration, intercultural education and school desegregation. These specific topics must become one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education. The coalition agreement of the current government unfortunately does not address these topics. There is only one point, that it would include lessons on the Roma community in history textbooks. We need intercultural education, not only in history textbooks, but in all compulsory education textbooks, intercultural education, such as optional lessons, such as interest classes, etc. We need the whole process of educational integration, which includes intercultural education, which includes the desegregation of segregated schools, to be elevated as a priority. The fact that it’s not in the coalition agreement gives a lot of latitude to the Ministry of Education to do what needs to be done, and we believe you will. We at the Amalipe Centre stand ready, also thenetwork “Every student will be a winner” and other NGO colleagues.
- On June 30th the project “Support for Success” for educational mediators ends. I doubt that the new project, which will be under the Education programme, will be able to start on 1 July. There are supposed to be educational mediators there, but the fact that the Operational Programme has not yet been approved means that there will be a delay. You know that the European Commission has been delaying approval for some time anyway, and then the managing authority itself has been delaying until it has announced the schemes. I suspect that it will take at least a few months for the educational mediators to be continued with the funds from the state budget, which in itself is a very good thing, because these colleagues here and the 1 000 other educational mediators are ultimately doing a job for us, for the Bulgarian state, not just for the European Commission.
- Another thing that is very important: the new funding scheme for school education, which is also enshrined in the coalition agreement, is funding that will be based on the quality of education. There is a need to emphasise the study of added value, the vertical tracking of quality and what progress schools are making, not by comparing elite with less elite and so on, but by seeing what progress a school is making after taking children through the different stages of education. Because many of the schools that educate Roma pupils have a huge added value. They take children who live in families with poorly educated parents and prepare them for higher levels of education and eventually for the labour market.”
At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Yosif Nunev also joined in and greeted all the attendees “If it were not you, the educational mediators, the living link between our community, it would not have happened. Despite all the gaps, our children are moving forward, for which I thank you once again.”
He encouraged the mediators not to be content with remaining mediators all their lives, but to keep developing, to keep improving their education and one day take their place as equal teachers, because children need to see teachers from the Roma community.
“If I had been content with being a teacher, I would have stayed one all my life, but no! I had a professor, Professor Bishkov, who had said to me – you have an obligation to your community – to help them out of the situation they are in. I’ve been doing that all my life through education. That’s what I want to see from you.”
In addition to plaques, participants received as a gift the newly published book by Prof. Nunev “Bulgarian Roma and Education – Past, Present, Future”.
Before the awarding ceremony, students from 106 “Grigoriy Tsamblak” Primary School in Sofia swarmed the ministers on the occasion of the Roma New Year and greeted the guests with musical performances. They were led by prof. Iliya Iliev – their artistic director. Minister Denkov congratulated the children for their talent, gave them books and wished them a happy childhood and diligence in school.
The ceremony “Educational mediator of the year – 2021” was part of the initiatives of Center Amalipe to celebrate the Vasilitsa – Roma New Year. It was followed by online celebrations in the Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria, ministries and embassies.