The Bulgarian weekend schools set up by Bulgarians abroad are self-organized entities, supported by the Bulgarian state. They devote a great deal of time and effort to preserve all things Bulgarian and keep the bond with Bulgaria alive.
A large-scale initiative is being launched, under the name “The roses of Bulgaria” to make the work of the Bulgarian weekend schools abroad more visible. The idea belongs to the Ministry of Education and Science which suggested that 11 May – the day of the Saints Cyril and Methodius – be celebrated by Bulgarians wherever they may be. There is one element of the programme that will be the same anywhere on the planet – the traditional Bulgarian horo dance that will be danced in the central squares in the big cities of Europe and around the world. According to data of the ministry, close to 35,000 people from 43 countries on 5 continents will join in the celebrations.
“We have already received more than 200 videos showing how Bulgarian are preparing for the celebration. What we have been endeavouring to do is to present our weekend schools abroad to the public inside Bulgaria. Not many know that almost 30,000 children learn to read and write in Bulgarian 24 hours a day on 5 continents, in 43 countries and 273 towns,” says Deputy Minister of Education and Science Denitsa Sacheva. “There are 328 weekend schools around the world. On 11 May our compatriots – children, teachers, parents and anyone with an interest in Bulgarian culture will dance the same Bulgarian horo – Festive Suite, performed by the Bulgarian National Radio Folk Music Orchestra wherever they may be in the world. After the initiative is over we shall put the videos, made by the people taking part, into one film. We want to lay emphasis on the fact that these schools play a very important role in keeping the Bulgarian identity alive, but they are offer an opportunity for the students to study the Bulgarian language, history and geography and earn a certificate so they will not have to sit for any additional exams if they decide to continue their education in Bulgaria. The weekend schools also offer pre-university training for prospective applicants to universities in Bulgaria. They also help us keep the bond with our compatriots abroad alive and keep the door open for their return to Bulgaria. We have been granted more than 51 million Leva since 2009-2010 in support for these schools. Every effort is being made to keep the weekend schools alive and to preserve our national identity and culture.”
For close to 6 months, the Ministry of Education and Science, along with the communities of Bulgarians around the world has been making preparations for the celebration of 11 May with “The roses of Bulgaria”. The students in Ukraine are among the people committed to the idea most. There are 64 primary schools there, there is even a music theatre. Besides the traditional horo, in Vienna there will be a recitation of the award-winning poems from the “I can read and write in Bulgarian” competition. In Johannesburg, South Africa a big fair will be organized with a display of hand-made items and homemade food, prepared with the help of children from the Sluncho (Sun) primary school. In Montreal, Canada Bulgarians are organizing a dazzling celebration with a parade of Bulgarian traditional costumes. Even in places where there are no Bulgarian weekend schools, like Kazakhstan and Japan, there will horo dancing with the participation of associations which want to set up Bulgarian heritage schools there.
“The idea is for the horo and the Bulgarian language to be demonstrated to the public, to be taken out in the open, instead of being closeted inside the schools, as has so far been the case,” says Natalia Mihalevska, head of the “Education of Bulgarians abroad and school network” directorate at the Ministry of Education and Science. “The roses of Bulgaria” is a way to advance the long years of efforts we have put into our work with Bulgarians around the world, with their organizations and the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad. What we did with the launch of the programme “Mother tongue and culture abroad” was in fact to provide a regulatory framework for the creation of close to 340 schools of Bulgarian communities in the whole world. That is something we wanted to make known, but we also wanted them to feel they have the support of the Bulgarian institutions. With this interview, dedicated to Bulgarians living around the world, I would like to send them a warm embrace and our gratitude for the efforts they have been making. Our ministry does more than finance the weekend schools, we support them methodologically and organizationally. We aim to popularize our culture and traditions, to give Bulgarians a high profile, to arouse the interest of foreigners in our country. That is our contribution to the European year of cultural heritage.”
Rehearsal at school “Ivan Stanchov” London
English version: Milena Daynova