10 young people (8 girls, 2 boys) aged at 14-17 were trained to act as child right defenders as part of the project “The Now and the Future: Advancing the Rights, Empowerment and Protection of Child Human Rights Defenders (CHRDs) in Bulgaria in partnership with Child Rights Connect and Know-How Centre for alternative care (New Bulgarian University).
The project aims at advancing the recognition and the rights of child human rights defenders (CHRDs) in Bulgaria, through connecting and empowering CHRDs and child-led groups, with a special focus on discriminated groups (particularly children who have or are likely to have experience of the child protection and care system), to shape and take forward their own human rights activities and fostering a more enabling environment for their initiatives.
Young people (who are living in different parts of Bulgaria (Kardzali, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Sofia, Ruse) have different social background and belong to various ethnic groups (Bulgarian, Turkish, Roma).
The young people have consultations with partners from Child Right Connect and Velina Todorova – a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and consultations with the child and youth participation expert at the National Network for Children in order to prepare the report. All consultations happened via Zoom.
The topic of the report was selected as a result of young people’s previous work on the topic – they did a survey with peers, made a content analysis and wrote a paper based on the results. They have also included the topic during the largest forum related to child and youth participation in Bulgaria – Voice It (see below).
Part I What kind of problems prevent meaningful youth participation within the school setting?
1) Students often do not have the right to express their opinions;
2) Teachers often avoid working on projects with students;
3) The teacher management does not engage the youth with tasks (even with small and insignificant ones);
4) A good emotional connection is not built between the class teacher and the class;
5) Teachers often have favourite students and the same young people always take up the responsible and interesting activities, without giving the opportunity to the others who want to get involved;
6) The ideas of young people are not listened to and are underestimated;
7) Young people are criticized for their mistakes, and this leads to doubts about their abilities;
😎 The school does not conduct initiatives that are interesting for students;
9) The school management does not give freedom to students to participate in decision-making, but directly imposes its opinion.
10) Many students are passive and delegate participation opportunities to others;
11) Teachers and the school management board have prejudices regarding topics which students find interesting and important (more specifically, those related to human rights and relationships with peers);
12) The school management board has prejudices (because of the misinformation political campaigns against the non-governmental sector) in terms of organizations that are focused on rights and provide opportunities for meaningful participation for young people;
13) Teachers and management do not take seriously the participation of young people in initiatives related to school life;
14) Topics and problems that really affect students are not discussed at school;
15) There is insufficient awareness related to child and youth participation;
16) Lack of good communication between students and teachers;
17) Topics that are important to students are not discussed.
Part II What are the recommendations that the Committee should make to the State of Bulgaria? What can be done so that meaningful youth participation occurs?
1) To provide more responsibilities to students. Participating in short-term activities will enhance young people to take part in more important initiatives and projects;
2) The class teacher must inform the class about the upcoming school events;
3) To enable more young people to participate in school activities. Have a competition where young people can present their ideas and choose between ideas will support this process;
4) To discuss topics and problems which young people find meaningful and important for their lives;
5) Youth should be encouraged to participate and be heard;
6) Students with more experience can support students with less experience in order to be able to conduct school events;
7) Only young people who have expressed a desire and interest in participation should be included;
😎 To give more freedom to students to implement their ideas because they have a different perspective;
9) Each class should be informed about upcoming contests, productions in order to follow their wish and participate;
10) Teachers and the management to help in case of difficulties with the implementation of given activities by the students;
11) More events/youth forums like the Voice It forum – the largest forum for child and youth participation organized and facilitate by “Megaphone” Youth Network with the support of the National Network for Children in Bulgaria;
12) Promotion of youth initiatives in social networks by schools and organizations that work with young people;
13) Creation of youth spaces in school, where students, representatives of the civil sector and parents can meet and discuss topics important to children and young people, as well as the latter can promote their activities there;
14) To have special hours in school dedicated to the meaningful child and youth participation – conversations about the students’ experience and peer to peer exchange on the subject.
15) On the school websites, there should be more information about activities carried out by young people;
16) Youth events to be funded by external organizations;
17) To have a special day during the school year dedicated to child and youth participation;
18) Carrying out campaigns to promote activities of children and young people.
Read the full report HERE