Dear supporters and friends,
Immersed in the ups and downs of the new school year, which in Bulgaria started on September 16th, we would like to take stock of our recent achievements and undertakings. Last month Muzeiko – America for Bulgaria Children’s Museum celebrated its fourth birthday and, along with the cheers, it was a time for reflection and renewed resolutions.
“Achieving greater equity in education is not only a social-justice imperative. It is also a way to use resources more efficiently, and to increase the supply of knowledge and skills that fuel economic growth and promote social cohesion”, Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, wrote in one of his 2018-year publications. Unarguably, the statement is valid all over the world, however, to Bulgaria, as one of the European Union Member States with the highest dependency between student results and their origin, it needs to motivate urgent actions.
As you know, Muzeiko Foundation recently embarked on a new challenge to engage deeper around issues of social and cultural inclusion, with the intention of creating a safe and necessary place for children of diverse backgrounds.
On August 28th, we welcomed a group of 9 children from the Centre for social rehabilitation and integration managed by CONCORDIA Foundation. It is located in the infamous Sofia suburb of Zaharna Fabrika (Sugar factory), known for its vast gypsy neighbourhood. Despite its relatively small size, it was actually quite a difficult “cohort” to manage, as the kids were aged from 5 to 14, with mixed abilities and interests, very active, one of them was with emotional problems and autism. There was a 14-year-old girl who, according to the social worker, could not read nor write, she had dropped out of school years ago and CONCORDIA staff were working hard to trace her education history and last grade-completion certificate, so that she could go back in the system. She and another teenage girl, although impressed by the fancy ambiance of Muzeiko Science Centre, initially demonstrated no interest in the activities. They kept on tampering with their phones, making selfies and staring in the screens.
It required the passion and assertion of Muzeiko’s educator to manage the group, to win their attention and make them listen while playing and running around. It was evident that the children had rarely (if ever) been exposed to enquiry-based teaching approach and the role of little explorers that they were put in was new to them.
The visit was a test for the patience, professionalism and creativity of our staff. But towards the end of the experience, when all the group was made to sit down and recapitulate the key findings of their science adventure, and we saw the gleam of interest in the eyes of some of the kids (particularly the young ones), we knew that it was worth the efforts. Even the teenage girls – who tended to stray away from the science talks, were furtively listening to the educator, and finally felt relaxed, because we offered them a safe learning environment, free from judgement, prejudice, without punishment or stigma for wrong answers.
On September 5th, Muzeiko hosted a visit for another 8 children from a residential social service in Bozhurishte district, situated on the outskirts of Sofia. Unlike the previous group, they were motivated and disciplined – as a result of the hard work of their educators, social workers and carers, and were eager to see and do as many things as possible in the museum. One of the things that impressed them most was the Maker Space studio where they had the opportunity to learn the basics of computer animation – thus equipping themselves with a new life skill.
We would stop our narrative here, as we would like to express our gratitude for your generosity, because without our donors, these “small wins” would not be possible.
It is your trust and support that push us one step further to unfold our full potential. There is a lot more still in the pipeline and with your help, we shall work hard to achieve our plans.