On 12 December hundreds of Bulgarian parents gathered in front of the Bulgarian Parliament to protest against the latest education draft of the Law on education. The draft stipulates compulsory preschool education for children aged 4 and sanctions parents who do not enroll their 4-year olds in preschool. The draft heavily sanctions parents who organize their own children’s daycare in the form of parents cooperatives, where a number of parents put their children (up to 7-10) in a private home to jointly take care of them.
The cold, minus zero celsius temperatures did not prevent parents from going out to voice their protest, bearing infants and small children in the freezing wind.
After the protest, a Round table was held at the Bulgarian Parliament, in which representatives of the educational ministry, the educational industry and parents’ organizations took active part.
The parents firmly insisted upon their parents’ rights and cited five international Conventions on human rights, together with the Bulgarian Constitution, which all guarantee the inalienable right of parents to bring up and educate their children as they choose. Regarding children’s upbringing and education all international conventions on human rights manifestly place the highest priority of rights onto parents. They declare this a priority that definitively outranks the responsibility and interference of the state, said parents.
Parents also insisted on their freedom to practice alternative forms of education with their children such as homeschooling and parents’ cooperatives. The latter are guaranteed by the Constitution and by democratic principles, and as such cannot, and should not be sanctioned by law.
Parents’ organizations emphasized that the family environment is the healthiest and the most natural environment for children. This is why, argued Stoyan Georgiev (Chairman of the “Society and Values Association”), compulsory institutionalized child care for ages 3, 4 and 5 is not, and will never be, a legitimate and beneficial option for Bulgarian children.
The National Parents’ Network emphasized that Bulgarian educational system delivers high educational results only provided children’s families are actively involved in educational efforts at home, which in itself is nothing short of the well-known practice of homeschooling. Conversely, in the multitude of cases where the formal education system delivers poor or no results, this is largely due to the parents’ lack of involvement with their children’s learning at home. The Network also insisted that no law can impose philosophies and ideologies that infringe upon the freedom of parents. Such a practice is anti-constitutional and flagrantly violates the basic Constitutional premise that Bulgarian education is secular and free.
School-students took part in the Round table too, appealing to the Members of Parliament to vote as their consciousness impels, while not forgetting that contemporary Bulgarian schools are far from doing well in all indicators, to force young 4-year olds in.
Representatives of state and private pre-school units argued severely with parents, claiming that the compulsory starting age of children’s education should even go down to 2 years of age. They claimed that the environment in state kindergartens is excellent for all Bulgarian children.
In response, parents flatly refused to give up their confidence that kindergartens and state institutions can never secure the love, care and warmth that parents only can secure for their children, at home.
The Deputy Education Minister Milena Damyanova tried assuring parents by stating that the state does not wish to take children away from the vital family environment. She claimed that the Law seeks to empower parents and grant them further rights, as well as more educational opportunities for their children.
However, Ms Damyanova flatly refused to address the main issue of the event, namely why the measure of early pre-school should be compulsory and why parents’ care at home and in cooperatives should be sanctioned, as well as why if such measures supposedly ’empower’ parents, the Law heavily fines (and thus oppresses) parents who choose alternative care solutions for their children.
In the meantime the Education Minister Sergey Ignatov stated that the next legislative attempt will be to prescribe compulsory preschool education for children aged 3.
Bulgarian parents are firmly decided to continue their vigorous protest until the government backs off from violating basic human rights and parents’ responsibilities.
Association Society and Values