ACCEPT Pluralism Roundtable in Sofia, Bulgaria

“Ethnic Diversity in Schools: Discourses and Practices between Intolerance and Acceptance”,

29 October 2012,

Hotel “Best Western Plus Bristol”

 

The International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations – IMIR (Bulgaria) in cooperation with Banlieues d’Europe (France), hosted a round table on “Ethnic Diversity in Schools: Discourses and Practices between Intolerance and Acceptance”, which took place on October 29th, 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The event was aimed at presenting and discussing the findings of the research within the scope of the ACCEPT PLURALISM project. The participants included subject-matter experts from different institutional circles – academia, non-profit sector, state officials, journalists and students.

We are truly grateful to the colleagues who accepted our invitation to discuss these complex issues, which are especially significant for the Bulgarian public.

The topic of the debate was not chosen arbitrarily – Roma education is a major hot topic in the Bulgarian society. For decades the institutions have been attempting to propose adequate measures for resolving the problems in this area. One of the most significant issues is the desegregation of Roma children. Its practical implementation is subject to heated debates among various experts, in the media and in the society as general. The diverse reactions in the course of the debate are also a good indicator of the prevailing level of public tolerance towards different ethnic and social groups.

 

In the first panel, the members of the IMIR team Marko Hajdinjak and Maya Kosseva presented the key results of their work within the context of ACCEPT Pluralism project. The findings of the research project RELIGARE: Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe – Innovative Approaches to Law and Policy, financed under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, where IMIR participates as a partner, were presented by Maya Kosseva on behalf of Iva Kyurkchieva, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences – Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum. In the second panel, Maya Grekova,Sofia University, presented data from a sociological surveyconducted as part of the SEGA Foundation project “Monitoring of the educational integration process of Roma children in the regions of Kardjali and Montana.” Deyan Kolev of the Amalipe Centre for Multiethnic Dialogue and Tolerance familiarized the audience with the project “Decreasing of Roma Children Drop-Out Rates 2012-2013” conducted by the Amalipe Foundation with the financial support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation. Szilvia Rézműves, Center for Policy Studies (CPS), Central European University, Budapest,presented the situation in Hungary. Charlotte Bohl of Banlieues d’Europe summarized her impressions of the interesting discussion. 

The topic of Roma children desegregation, although often discussed in the Bulgarian society, once again provoked many emotional arguments. It was evident that both government officials and academic researchers are enthusiastic and motivated to work in this area but currently the best approaches have not been yet identified. Despite the general feeling of pessimism due to the increasing public intolerance, it is optimistic that there are people who are dedicated to identifying solutions for the issues. Despite the generous time allotted for the discussion, it was apparently not sufficient for the participants – the discussions continued during the lunch organized by the hosts of the event.

The event was covered by the Bulgarian section of Deutche Welle, which also added an interview with Marko Hajdinjak and Maya Kosseva, available here

 

The information about the round table was also posted at the Cross agency web site:

For the program of the event click here.

For a detailed report of the presentations and the debates of the roundtable click here.