On November 20, World Children’s Day, on which the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted, the ninth edition of the Voice It youth forum was held in Sofia. The event is organised annually by the National Children’s Network (NNC) together with the NNC’s Megafon Youth Network and, as every year, gave children the opportunity to express their opinion on the issues that matter to them and participate in problem solving by entering in direct discussion with representatives of the legislative and executive authorities. The forum was opened by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Academician Nikolay Denkov.
Voice It 2023 was under the title “What students want” and focused on three topics that the youth of “Megafon” themselves identified as important to them: Bullying, Curriculum and Sports and healthy eating. More than 260 students from four cities in Bulgaria participated in the preliminary closed sessions and in the public event to formulate together the specific questions that they addressed to the politicians in the official part of the event within three discussion panels on focus topics. The discussions were moderated by journalist and popular vlogger Flora Stratieva.
“Curriculum and extracurricular activities are something that should go hand in hand for the school to be complete. School should not just be a place where you go to have teachers teach you material, but a place where you do things that are important and useful to you.” This is how Academician Nikolay Denkov addressed the children, who shared that his real passion is not politics, but learning, teaching and discovering new things, then took a selfie with the hall full of young people, leaving the preliminary official protocol.
“As a socially responsible company, our support for the VOICE IT youth forum is an expression of our desire to be a partner in the social dialogue for a better tomorrow. It is important for us to hear the voice of your expectations and needs, so that we can respond with opportunities right here in Bulgaria. I wish you a constructive discussion, bold ideas and high goals,” said Katerina Shopova, Human Resources Director of Lidl Bulgaria – corporate partner of Voice It 2023.
“It’s important to remember: The world you live in today is not good enough! You have the right to ask for more – from adults, from politicians, from people in power! You have the right to want a better and fairer world! You have the right to acceptance, understanding and support in difficulties! You have the right to a better school environment, more free time, more opportunities, more participation! The voice of the web is louder when you are with us! Let everything you dream about today turn into solutions tomorrow!”. With these words, Antoaneta Ivanova, chairman of the Board of Directors of NNC, welcomed the young people in the hall.
Ali from the Megafon Youth Network delivered the following message: “The most important thing for me now is to listen to children and young people, not to get tired of making this effort constantly, because it’s really not an easy thing, but it’s the only way words ‘children are most important’ to be filled with content and carry meaning.’
Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy Mrs. Elka Nalbantova, Deputy Minister of Health Prof. Mihail Okoliyski and Ilina Mutafchieva, Member of Parliament and Member of Parliament took part in the conversation with the youth about the curriculum, school bullying and sports and healthy eating committee on children, family, youth and sports issues, Emilia Ivanova, mentor of the “Schools for example” program at the “Teach for Bulgaria” Foundation, Ekaterina Yosifova, co-founder of the “For the Food” Foundation, as well as the youth from “Megafon”: Ally, Dennis, Eddie, Violet, Nia, Tiana and Laura.
The young people asked the representatives of the institutions direct and even provocative questions. Among them: “What would you do if your child bullied another child?”, “How, in your opinion, should the education system be changed so that students have higher results on the DZI?”, “Why don’t the benches offers healthy food?”, “Is there a chance to introduce subjects in Bulgarian education that are aimed at the individual interests of the student and prepare him for life?”. Expect the highlights of the conversations with the representatives of the institutions on each of the focus topics soon. The young people in the audience asked dozens of questions, which, due to time constraints, remained unanswered, but the National Network for Children will ask politicians for specific answers and share them publicly so that no important question remains unanswered.
After the discussions on stage, parents, experts working with children and politicians in the room were challenged with an online questionnaire with questions from the 7th to 12th grade curriculum. Thus, in a funny way, the adults were put “in the children’s shoes” in order to feel through their own experience whether they would have coped in the place of the youngsters because of the way the material was presented and the requirement for rote knowledge, which has no practical use in everyday life or children nor adults. One of the questions was “What is the name of a new stage in the use of nature, in which the interaction between nature and society is balanced?”, and the possible answers: Geographical determinism, Geographical environmentalism, Geographical possibilism or Geographical indeterminism.
The “Skills of the Future” panel was part of the event. It was attended by future professionals from Lidl Bulgaria’s youth programs, as well as human resources experts in a company that is a recipient of the “Child’s Friend” Certificate from NNC and a corporate partner of this year’s edition of Voice It. The panel presented the possibilities for early career guidance in the fast-moving trade, how a young person without previous work experience can attract the attention of employers, what are the skills of the future and how important education is for the professional development of every young person. Among the guests at the event in the hall were employees of Lidl Bulgaria together with their children, to show them that children also have the right to an opinion, can state their position and address their requests to the institutions.
Voice It 2023 was also broadcast live on the Facebook page of the National Children’s Network. A video of the arguments fought by young people and politicians can be seen HERE .
At the end of the conference day, the guests of the event had the opportunity to talk with experts in the exhibition area with stands of organizations and companies.
The ninth edition of the annual forum of the Youth Network “Megaphone” of the NNC was also held with the support of UNICEF Bulgaria and Project “ENROLL – engaging youth and adults in civil activism in the field of the rule of law at the local level”, supported by USAID and Dexis . Thanks to the ENROLL project, VoiceIt 2023 also placed a special focus on the topic of child and youth participation as a guarantor of the rule of law in Bulgaria.