Appeal for ensuring a physically present school year in Bulgaria

Four Bulgarian NGO’s, working in the field of human rights, children rights and the rights of people with disabilities sent an open letter to the authorities according to children rights in COVID-19 situation.

They demand urgent measures to protect the interests of children in the context of epidemics.

You can read the full text below.

 

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

NCIPD system data, up to August, 7th shows the 14-day incidence of COVID-19 in Bulgaria is 61.1, and the percentage of positive tests on a weekly basis is 2.3%. ECDC criteria puts our country in the orange zone, and the number of cases rate of increase shows the epidemic situation deterioration is no longer a hypothetical risk, but an ongoing process.

Due to the lack of a sustainable pro-vaccination policy our country squandered the chance to reduce the pressure of the 4th pandemic wave. Now we again face the inevitable choice of which sectors and social groups to pay the price of the forthcoming restrictions.

And the risk is children to be the victims again.

From the very beginning of the crisis in Bulgaria, the signals have been neglected that the mass and prolonged removal of children from their usual social and educational environment will have deep and lasting negative effects both on them and on the whole society. In ECDC latest guidelines published in July 2021 emphasizes, that the the decision to close schools to control the COVID-19 pandemic should only be considered as a last resort. UNICEF and UNESCO came out with general statement, appealing governments to organize such that schools are the last institution to close when restrictions are imposed and the first to start working in person when granting measures in order to avoid a generational catastrophe.

A large part of the students in junior high school and high school in Bulgaria have attended only 3 months for the entire period of the pandemic, which has already covered one and a half school years! At the same time, all services for adults worked, including nightclubs and casinos,. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups whose rights have been violated the most in the context of this pandemic. The restrictions in Bulgaria affected them disproportionately, unjustifiably and in a discriminatory manner. This is clearly seen in research of the Institute for Research in Education on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Science, which shows a collapse in the motivation, commitment and achievement of students, even without taking into account the severe psychological pressure to which they were subjected. 25% of students are at risk of dropping out of school.

That is why at the end of June we sent to the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science a package of proposals for ensuring a physically present school year.

The implementation of these measures or part of them requires political will to prioritize children's rights, combining health measures with economic support for the sectors concerned and a more explicit vaccination policy. This is a common commitment of the legislature and the executive branches and cannot be tossed about like a hot potato among their various representatives.

The lessons of the eighteen months of pandemic Europe is living proved that the more timely measures are taken to limit the spread of the disease, the less the humanitarian and economic damages are.

We urge the institutions to take all necessary measures as a matter of urgency in order to tackle the crisis in a timely manner.