Thursday, 18 September 2014

Is It Another Brick In The Wall?

Monday dawned in the village, much the same as any other Monday, but something felt different. I could hear birds singing in the trees, and I could hear tractors and machinery working in fields. There were the usual sounds of chickens and roosters doing their normal things, the occasional dog barked and our cats were singing for their breakfast. So far everything appeared normal, it was slightly cooler and I was burrowed under more than just a sheet, so maybe that was it. It wasn't until I was actually feeding the dogs and cats that I worked out what was so different. There were no children to be heard, could it be the work of some alien body snatchers to blame, or some governmental ploy behind it all? Or could it simply be that Monday September 15th was the first day of the new school year?

With the bad weather that we have been having this year, it doesn't really feel as though we have had a summer. Now with the start of a new academic year it feels as though the summer that wasn't is slowly sinking out of sight. Even though we do still have the village school here it hasn't been used for years. Unless you count the sheep that use the school grounds for grazing, although I doubt that any of them could recite the 6 times table or become another Shakespeare. The children from this village have to travel to attend school. They either go to the next village, Vinograd, or into Draganovo or Gorna depending on their age.

According to various reports it seems as though approximately 64000 young Bulgarians will be starting school for the first time. Despite it being a daunting prospect for them, it is also tinged with excitement. In Bulgaria education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16, and is provided freely by the State. The only things that the student's family has to provide are textbooks, any needed stationery, and if the student undertakes any school trips. Before a child enrols in their first year at school they must have undergone a year of pre school.

These new pupils in Bulgaria are treated with just as much family pride as a new pupil in any other country. Even though many schools here do not have a school uniform, these young boys and girls are dressed to look their best. There are so many cameras in evidence from not only mums and dads, but also from extended family members too. In years to come no one wants to look back at their first day at school photos and think "I look like a sack of potatoes tied up in the middle". You will also notice that the family members have also made the effort to dress up too, or maybe that is to set an example. The teachers, while not in cap and gown, are also looking well turned out with suits and ties, dresses and skirts seeming to be the order of the day. Although not all together as we are not talking about an English Public school here. The whole day seems to be treated as a special occasion with family members inspecting the classrooms and finding out where their budding genius will be sat. There seem to be more smiles rather than tears from proud parents, as their children take their own first steps on the educational ladder.

There also seems to be an abundance of flowers in evidence. I think that these are given to the pupil's teacher, and not an indication that the child has been brain washed into becoming a clone of Morrissey. One thing has come to light from various reports is that the school year has started on time all across the country, even in the areas which were hit by the summer floods. Some schools have had to be totally refurbished, but they all had their doors open ready to start the new academic year on Monday. Maybe the paint might be a bit wet in places but no child's education will have suffered any delays.

However, children will be children, and not all of them will have viewed Monday in such an enthusiastic light. Parents throughout the known world are often heard to breathe a big sigh of relief once the school year starts, mine were probably no different. There has been mention that there is a slight short fall of teachers in a couple of subjects, most notably in Maths and English. Hopefully if people in the village read this, and their child is struggling with English, then I will help if I can. I might not be qualified, or have letters after my name, but I have been speaking English for as long as I can remember and that has to help. For Maths, if it involves more than me counting on fingers and toes, there has to be a better solution. I remember that once upon a time local education authorities did try to get the local foreigners to help with spoken English in schools, but it seems as though that initiative has fallen by the wayside.

64000 new pupils might sound like a lot for a country of almost 7 million people, but year on year numbers are falling. Maybe this is due to people seeking other lifestyles throughout Europe, and elsewhere, and perhaps this also accounts for the decline in the number of teachers. I was quite surprised to learn that there are Bulgarian schools outtside of the country, but most Bulgarian children living abroad enrol into the host country's education system.

So if you were wondering why the towns and villages seemed a bit quieter since the start of the week, the school bell has been responsible. The school day here starts earlier too, round about 8am. Some of us aren't even fully functioning at that time of morning, and need either more coffee or plugging into the mains (don't try that at home kids ). So well done to both teachers and pupils who are up and about and able to communicate effectively at such an ungodly hour. No wonder Bulgaria has such a high literacy rate. It seems as though schools here are more akin to Please Sir, possibly showing my age there, rather than Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall. Even though there aren't so many children who live in the village throughout the year it is surprising just how much quieter it seems when they are away at school. Hopefully they all enjoyed their first day back at school.  


  1. Just before the blog passes through 73,000 a very warm welcome to our latest follower of the Blog, this time it is Pepi. Thank you for taking the time to read these blog articles, hopefully you will find some of them useful, and you are most welcome to share them with friends and family :o)

  2. Thanks for this article, Kris;
    The first day is happiness, but after the last buzzer-it sad. .Sometimes I read comments below articles in FB for example, young bulgarians aren't able to expresse themselves and to write correctly. I'm afraid. I'm "Another brick in the wall" 's generation and I really want to return some things back, especially the school system...Can you imagine, they can't write and even speak Bulgarian ? !

    1. That isn't confined to just young Bulgarians Anna, it is the same the world over. So many young people rely on text speak that they have forgotten how to read and write properly. In the UK teachers are given performance targets which they are meant to reach, which means that the students are taught to pass exams, and not given an education. Perhaps it is the same in Bulgaria. I do know some teachers here and they are knowledgable and enthusiastic about their subjects but if the children do not wish to learn then what can be done?

  3. I'm a 60 year old ex-serviceman and did a bit in Saudi, however I have been looking at settling down in Bulgaria, but the health costs 400 euros per month and the fact my wife needs an income of 50 euros per day is going to be a back breaker, yes I know that 50 euros is equal to 2935 lev and an IT expert only gets 1025ish per month and a Nurse about 740lev per month so is there a way around this problem, my wife and daughter are Thai nationals. It does say that it was 50lev and they just changed the lev to euros, can't work out the percentage of that increase.
    If you have any info that will help, thanks in advance.


    Bob Weyman

    1. At the moment the Lev is tied to the Euro at a rate of 1 Euro = 1.953 Lev. Have you thought about private health insurance which could well work out cheaper? I'm not sure why your wife would need an income of that level, as when I do my residency card I have to get paperwork from a notary stating that I will support my wife, and that neither of us will claim from the state. I hope that this helps in some way

  4. Hi Kris my name is Bob Weyman and I did 18 in the RAF, the Anon bit is me forgetting and having trouble with Google accounts. It does help, and I think I must go through with the process and see what happens, The financial requirement for foreign members of the family was just 50 Lev and that would be no problem, we will see. I will keep looking at private health policies but most come close to 400 euros for the family including flying you back home. If you don't mind who have you got for medical cover? And what amount would say is an ok amount to survive on for a small family of wife, me 14 year old girl and 7 year old boy.
    You can email to this email address it's Mt alternative one:
    Thanks again for any help you can give.


    1. Hi Bob,
      To be quite honest with you financial needs would often change depending on where you live. It will be more expensive in a city, cheaper in a town and even more so in a village. My wife and I are in a village and we do grow fruit and veg in the garden. With youngsters the village life might not be such a good option for you as it does get very quiet, and we are quite remote. The good news is that we both live well enough on my military pension (24 years RN) and it isn't index linked just yet. Hospitals here might look a bit run down and tired, but the treatment is good and the so is the after care. Many pay into the state health care whereas others do choose the private route.

  5. A very warm welcome to another follower of the Blog, this time it is Bob. Thank you for taking the time to read these blog articles, hopefully you will find some of them useful, and you are most welcome to share them with friends and family :o)