All together in “Teach for Bulgaria”
By Ani Radenkova
Did you know that 40% of 15-year-old Bulgarians are functionally illiterate? For comparison – the EU average is 20%. That is, they cannot understand the meaning of a leaflet of a medicine and apply mathematical logic in basic life situations. This is economically detrimental to our country – without this basic skill, it is not possible for anyone to get into the market for skilled labour today. Not to mention the social and political consequences of the fact that almost half of young people, the future voters in our country, cannot independently understand and analyse information or make decisions about their life and civic choices.
This literacy is mostly acquired at school. Primary and secondary education in Bulgaria may be free and affordable, but not all schools in the country offer the same quality. It depends on various factors: location, financial situation, social environment, etc.
In order to help promote equal access to good education, the non-governmental “Teach for Bulgaria” organisation sends 160 teachers to 80 schools across 12 regions of the country, where the need for help is greatest. The goal of the organisation is that every child in Bulgaria has the opportunity to realise his or her potential, regardless of origin and environment. “Teach for Bulgaria” attracts and carefully selects strongly motivated, successful professionals, who take part in a two year long professional and leadership development programme. During this period, they teach, usually in poor, countryside or minority areas, supporting students in acquiring the key skills necessary to succeed in the future. Most of the “Teach for Bulgaria” alumni remain actively engaged in education after the end of the programme. “Teach for Bulgaria” is created with the support of the “America for Bulgaria Foundation” and is part of the “Teach for All” network whose approach is successfully applied in more than 40 countries on six continents.
Executive Director of the Foundation”Teach for Bulgaria” with a Harvard Diploma in Economics, Politics and Sociology
Coordinator “Training and Support for Teachers”, a graduate in Economics at Sofia University and International Business and Economic Development at Elizabethtown College, PA
One of the current participants in “Teach for Bulgaria”. She studied Architecture and Building Management at the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA). Since September 2017 Gergana has been an English teacher at the Sofia University “Hristo Smirnenski” in Stara Zagora.
How would you describe yourself?
Evgeniya: I love people and I believe in everyone’s potential to be successful and happy, useful to themselves and their community.
Radostina: I believe that every child can and deserves to achieve his or her dreams.
Gergana: I am an eternal optimist who is always struggling with the windmills of life.
Why did you replace a successful career in education abroad with the mission ”Teach for Bulgaria”?
Evgeniya: I needed a new challenge and have a great interest in working in the field of education – because I can mostly help the development, success and happiness of large groups of people.
Radostina: I have discovered that the vision, mission and values of the organisation overlap with mine. If I’m not ready to make an effort for every child to get access to quality education and support, why do I expect someone else to be ready to do so?
Gergana: Everything inside the programme and its approach, brought me the sense which I did not find abroad.
The fact that I can be meaningful and giving to children is the greatest asset at this stage.
What can you say is your greatest success since you took part in ”Teach for Bulgaria”?
Evgeniya: Today, the organisation, which was just an idea less than eight years ago, is an influential voice in Bulgarian education and every year extends its scope and influence. More than 70% of our graduates continue to work actively for equal access to quality education for Bulgarian pupils and after the first two years as teachers with our direct support and training.
Radostina: My pupils’ personal stories – how they believe in themselves and follow their dreams, take responsibility for their environment, and solve problems that are respectful and grateful to people alongside them.
Gergana: That I am still part of “Teach for Bulgaria” and together with the children continue to build a better planet.