ISSN 1214-8725
Číslo/Ročník/Rok: 2/III/2006 - Spring 2006

Refugee issues in the system of the secondary and high education in Bulgaria (referát)

Autor: Siyka Tchavdarova-Kostova
Abstract: Problémy uprchlíků na sekundárním a terciárním stupni vzdělávání v Bulharsku. – Bulharský vzdělávací systém stojí v tuto chvíli před výzvami, které pramení z dynamických změn v bulharské společnosti v posledních 15ti letech po změně politického směřování země v roce 1989. Jeho důsledkem je řada změn ve vzdělávací struktuře a obsahu vzdělávání na sekundárním a terciárním stupni systému. Jednou z výzev je příliv politických uprchlíků do Bulharska. Vzdělávací obsah a metody musejí být adekvátní soudobému vývoji společnosti.

Keywords: Refugees, Education, Society, Culture, Social Work

Klíčová slova: uprchlíci, vzdělávání, společnost, kultura, sociální práce

(Pozn. ed.: předneseno na mezinárodní konferenci Pohyb ve výchově, umění a sportu, která se konala na Pedagogické fakultě UK v Praze 5. května 2005.)

An axiom in the pedagogical theory is that the educational content and methods must be adequate to the contemporary development of the society, to the social needs of actual education for the children and young people. This axiom is valid as the system of the secondary and the system of the higher education, as the system of the informal education of the adults. If the educational system of one country claims that it is contemporary, that correspond to the actual social needs, it has the duty to observe this axiom and to be “open” to every new change in the society and ready for it’s insertion on one or other way in the frames of the educational content and activities.

At this moment in front of the Bulgarian educational system stand some challenges that are originated from the dynamic changes in the Bulgarian society in the last 15 years after the change in the political course of the country development in 1989. In the result of that there are a row of changes in the educational structure and content in the system of the secondary and the higher education. Here I will discuss one of them that I think will illustrate well the way on that go the Bulgarian educational system today answering of the challenges of the contemporary society.

Traditionally in Bulgaria live some minorities whose linguistic, cultural, educational rights are guaranteed from the official Bulgarian political system after 1989. The children from the minorities have equal access to educational system as the children from the Bulgarian majority. From some years in some Bulgarian universities there are specialized preparation of the future teachers on the problems in the context of the intercultural education. All this courses are concentrated exceptionally on the problems of the big minorities in Bulgaria – Turkish, Armenian, Jewish, Roma, with big accent on the problems with Roma children in our schools. I have also such courses in specialty Pedagogy, bachelor and master degrees – the course Intercultural education (60 hours) and Culture and education – management aspects (30 hours). The problems of the integration of the minority children (especially Roma’s) are exceptionally actual and I would say – “modern”. We have a row of achievements in this way and a row of unsolved problems – especially in respect to the negative stereotypes and prejudices to the “different” children independently the character of their difference – ethnical, religious, race belonging.

From more 10 years in Bulgaria gradually takes form a new “different” group with that Bulgarians must adapt – the refugees. In different historical periods Bulgaria has received on its territory refugee streams from neighbor Balkan countries, as foreigners, as Bulgarians that live on the territory of neighbor countries, asking asylum in the country of their ancestors. In the social consciousness, and in the international, Bulgaria is perceived as an peace island on the stormy Balkan peninsula where the wars between neighbor ethnical groups especially in the last decade of the XXth century shocked the world with their cruelty. In the last 10 years Bulgaria transformed gradually as a country that accept refugees not only from her neighbor territories. For the period 1993–2000 in Bulgaria people from mire than 70 country have sought for asylum – Afghanistan, Iraq, Armenia, Serbia and Montenegro, Iran, Nigeria, Turkey, Algeria, Sudan, Bangla Desh, Ethiopia, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanese, Russia and so on (UNHCR 2004: 136).

One part of them are children. Till the end of the 2003 a refugee’s status has given from Bulgarian government to 327 children, humanitarian – to 702 children (1029 positive solutions from 2097 requests). Only for 2003 196 children from different countries has seek asylum in Bulgaria. The children that have received the status of refugee in Bulgaria have right of gratuitous education in the frame of the state’s educational system (UNHCR 2004: 30), they have real access to the kindergartens and the school education. This fact is one challenge in front of the pupils, the teachers, the school leaders that must accept the children refugees as equal in rights, as one of all pupils in the school environment that people must treat with tolerance and respect aiding them to integrate optimally in the new school environment. But the integration of the children refugees not always go without problems. Some children accept with difficulty new “different” children in the classroom especially when the difference is too visible – for example the color of the skin. As an illustration I will give two examples that reflect really arising conflicts in the school environment at the time of the entrance of children refugees in Bulgarian schools:

· The president of the Ethiopian community in Bulgaria shared cases when Bulgarian pupils have offend Ethiopian children with words “Negro”, “monkey”, that drive Ethiopian children to refusal to attend Bulgarian school.

· The president (Iraqi women) of the Board of the women-refugees in Bulgaria – non-governmental organization created in 2002, shared for the interference of this organization when a child refugee from Iraq was not acceptеd from his classmates in one school in Sofia (December, 2004) – they didn’t want to turn his hand. The problem has solved after the visit of women from The Board to the school and to the class of the child.

These examples direct to the necessity from special educational work toward forming positive tolerant attitudes to this new “different” children. As a good example can be pointed the special educational activities in the Sofia’s “Tzar Ivan Assen II” 12th High School directed to the insertion in the lessons of some subjects – Geography, History, Bulgarian language, English language, Informatics the refugee problems. More concretely, the lesson’s themes are:

· Geography (pupils 9th grade) – 1. Mankind’s Refugee Problem and its Geographic Aspects. 2. Refugee Problem in the Balkans;

· History and Civilization (pupils 11th grade) – 1. Causes and factors generating migration waves and refugee waves during the XXth century. 2. Great Historical Events, Migration and Refugee Waves during the mid of the XXth century;

· Bulgarian language (pupils 10th grade) – 1. Building up National Identity Conscience and Forming a National Ideal. 2. Man and his national space;

· English language – 1. Discussion and reading texts about human rights violations; 2. Who is refugee? [2]

The educational activities of the teachers and students of this Bulgarian school can be highly assessed as the lesson’s structure, educational methods and results. But this is only one such school with such experience. It is necessary this positive experience to be more popularized in other Bulgarian schools because this is the natural way for the insertion of refugee issues in the educational content and forming comprehension toward refugee problems.

Except in the secondary school, refugee issues must be inserted and in the system of the higher education because of the necessity future specialists in different professional spheres to be prepared to work with refugees. With this goal in 2002 from the office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees was initiated the Academic Refugees and Human Rights Studies Initiative in Bulgaria. The purpose of this Initiative is: “To contribute in developing more systematic academic awareness and understanding in refugee and humanitarian issues of Bulgarian professors, students and researchers for service within and outside of Bulgaria. This is meant to further facilitate effective application of this issues in governmental and non-governmental sectors as well as to maintain a positive and supportive public opinion for these issues in Bulgaria’s EU and NATO integration process and in the face of anti-terrorist measures and other challenges in the global village.” [3]

For one short period in some Bulgarian universities was realized academic courses in Bachelor and Master degrees in the spheres of refugee law, political sciences, social work with refugees. Refugee issues durably was inserted in the courses in New Bulgarian University, Shumen University, Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”. It would be specially pointed that this big work in respect to widening the insertion of refugee issues in the system of the higher education in Bulgaria is due to the inspiring activity of the Representative of the Bulgarian office of UNHCR – dr. L. Druke.

Our Faculty of Pedagogy was inserted in the Academic Initiative in March, 2004 on the base of the Plan of Action between the Faculty, the UNCHR and the State Agency for Refugees. This Plan of action is the base on that gradually are build different activities bind with the pedagogical preparation of the students and the lecturer’s engagement in respect to the teaching refugee issues.

In our faculty we have two basic specialty – Pedagogy and Social work, bachelor, master and PhD degrees, between 1000 students per year. Why the learning of refugee problems is necessary for the students – future teachers and social workers? Firstly, because the children refugees are a part of the Bulgarian educational system, they are between other children in the school, therefore the teachers and the other pedagogical staff must become aware this fact, with accent on the peculiarities of this group children. It is necessary special preparation for formation of a positive attitudes toward these children, skills for resolving conflict situations, for optimal insertion of the children refugees in different school and out-of-school activities. The same can be said in respect to the activities of the social workers that realized different social services with refugees.

What are the academic responsibilities in respect to the teaching of the refugee issues? They are related with presentation to the student of basic aspects of the refugee problems – in one informational direction, the variety of the successful activities in the sphere of the school, out-of-school and social work with refugees, different variants of the teaching of these problems in Bulgarian universities; forming skills for realization of pedagogical and social activities with refugees, insertion in the practice – by observations and active participation in activities with refugees; formation of the positive attitudes and interest toward this problem field; popularization of the refugee issues in front of pedagogical society; provoking of the interest of more universities lecturer to these problems.

Where the refugee issues can be dispose in the curriculum? Firstly, in the frames of the elective subjects. In the Faculty of Pedagogy now are realized two such disciplines – Pedagogical aspects of the phenomenon refugees (specialty Pedagogy, bachelor degree, 60 h.) and Social work with refugees (specialty Social work, master degree). Secondly, insertion of the refugee issues in the frames of other courses, for example: Theory of education, Methods of the social work, Medical-social work with priority groups and so on.

The realization of the scientific criterion in the educational process impose the necessity and for implementation of special scientific researches. This argue the formation of the Laboratory of the pedagogical and social researches on refugee issues with the status of a functional section of the Faculty of pedagogy. We already win our first scientific project from the name of the Laboratory – School and out-of-school educational activities with refugees in Bulgaria for one year research period. Research activity is realized and from CERMES – Center for European, Refugee, Migration and Ethnic Studies of the New Bulgarian University. From the name of this center are realized different project in the indicated directions.

As a conclusion: the axiomatic for the pedagogical science recommendations for realizing of a differentiated and individualized approach in the educational process accordingly specific peculiarity of the group and the person today, in the conditions of one globalizing world of the dynamic migration processes, enrich their contents in respect to new group educational subjects – refugees. The insertion of the refugee issues in the secondary and higher education subserves development of the educational theory and practice provoking teachers and lecturers to develop themselves.


[1] URL:< >

[2] URL:< >


Reference Book REFUGEES IN BULGARIA. Building the National System for Refugee Protection 1993–2003. UNHCR, Sofia, 2004.

(Prof. Dr. Siyka Tchavdarova-Kostova, Department of Theory of Education, Faculty of Education, Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”.)