Asya is a charming 9-year-old girl in the 4th grade. She likes school – math and English are her favorite classes. She dreams of becoming a dentist one day, admitting that she is not afraid of the chair herself. Asya is a bit nervous, but also glad to tell the new story from school, named The King’s Left Eye. You might wonder what’s so special about all this… The special thing is that Asya is a Roma girl and we all know that the dreams of children from this community rarely spread over the borders of their not so happy everyday life. Different statistics say it all the time – over 75 percent of Roma children do not graduate even high school. That is why Asya is more like an exception. Along with 11 other kids she attends a study hall at the Fakulteta Roma neighborhood, where they do their homework and prepare for classes. The spot was established after the proposal of local Roma leaders and the response of three enthusiasts, lawyer Petromir Kanchev being one of them. The trio developed a Take Me to School project with the main goal of preventing the early dropping of Roma children out of school. Later on the enthusiasts established the Creation Association, which supported and developed the project. Petromir gives us more details on their reasons to do it:
“All Bulgarians complain of Roma people – they are dirty, they commit crimes, they drive horse wagons in traffic jams and sell their ballot at polls… However, we miss the fact that we haven’t done anything too much for them – I mean we, people, and not the state. I.e. you have the right to protest if you have done something before that. I think education is the only key that can change their heavy life – of course the effect is very slow and takes years. However, we are aware that if we had started back in 1990, we would have had Roma doctors, teachers and not only musicians now – though they are really very good at that… The existence of prominent people, representing the community before authorities is essential. That is why we decided to start it all at once, so that after another 20 years we wouldn’t have to feel the regret we feel now. We started with the Take Me to School project…”
The project’s budget is EUR 5,000, donated by the Finnish Uusipesola church. The money goes for the salaries of both teachers, as well as for the study hall’s school bus. A Bulgarian food bank provides the lunch and snack for the kids. “This is an additional stimulus for the parents, as we step in for two meals,” Petromir explains. The study hall itself is accommodated at one of the Roma churches in the neighborhood. All the participants in the project are Roma, both teachers as well. One of them is named Zlatka, 23. She has graduated high school, but dreams on of becoming a pediatrician. She has been married for 3 years, but still hasn’t kids of her own and thus she can devote herself to her pupils:
“I have always dreamt of Roma children to start achieving more in society and abandon these child births at the age of 12 – 13,” Zlatka says. “I want our kids to continue studying, even after high school. This is really important nowadays, as even cleaning ladies need high school diplomas…”
Petromir says that the 12 kids are motivated and do want to study. The good results this year confirm that. 10-year-old Krassi is also one of them. She says she loves literature, math and physical education and adds on the study hall:
“I really like it here, they help us with our lessons. I have really good grades at school. I want to become a doctor, in order to help people…”
Classes in English and computers will be organized as of this year, the second one, thanks to volunteer teachers. Senior students will have the chance to learn some craft. Petromir is ambitious for the future development of a new project, supporting Roma children, who dare to go to a Bulgarian or foreign university.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev