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The Battle for a School

From the mixing of concrete to the masonry and the roof tiles – the entire school was constructed by volunteers from the village 80 years ago. It is our duty to keep it alive! Today we have 35 students. If the school is closed, there is a real danger that parents will not send their children to study anywhere else. As was the case with our grandparents – most of them were illiterate. There is no community center and no library in Bel Kamen. The school is the only place for education and culture. A nation without education and culture is a dead nation.

When I became principal in 2009, I quickly realized I would not work as principal but as an entrepreneur, as we had no chance of survival if we did not have resources. Not just in terms of money, but in terms of any support - labor, materials. I started racking my brains where to start. At the very first parents meeting, people said they wanted their children to study English. It took me a lot of digging on the Internet until I ran across the Peace Corps. They sent us a volunteer, and for two years we had a native English speaker in our school. Can you imagine! In Bel Kamen. This really encouraged me. Some of you probably don’t know where to find our village on the map. Well, it is close to Yakoruda.

One day I shared my plan to apply to the America for Bulgaria Foundation for a computer classroom, an interactive board and renovation.

My colleagues were very skeptical, but I did not give up. My idea was to not only change the appearance of the school but to focus our community’s attention on the school. And I succeeded! People stop me on the street and say: “A few months ago, if anyone told us our school would be in 21st century, we would think he is crazy!” 

Now the computer classroom is used not only by the students and teachers but by the whole village. What do I dream about? I dream about saving the school for many years ahead.

Alish Vaklyov, Principal of Neofit Rilski Primary School in Bel Kamen

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