Sofia, July 22, 2010 – The Bulgaria Social Inclusion Project aiming at intergenerational social inclusion by developing and rolling out nationally a school readiness program for the total amount of 40 million Euros, was officially launched today by the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Valentina Simeonova.
The World Bank Country manager Markus Repnik and the Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria Ms. Ginka Tchavdarova attended the project launch where the eligibility criteria for municipalities were announced to media. All 27 Bulgarian regional centers will be eligible for funding. In addition up to 4 municipalities from each region will also be invited to apply. Elegibilty is based on objective criteria, accounting for poverty, need and demand.
The Social Inclusion Project aims at increasing school readiness of children below the age of 7, targeting low-income and marginalized families, including Roma families. For example, about 13 percent of working age individuals identified as Roma have completed secondary education, compared to almost 90 percent for the rest of the population.
“Giving people the same life CHANCES requires investments in early childhood development, providing kids, as one says here in Bulgaria, with their proper “initial seven years”, said Repnik at the event. He emphasized also that “the project will provide these proper initial seven years for the most vulnerable children through pre-school training and services - so that these kids enter school at an equal footing, allowing them to successfully progress in their later education and life”.
Low education achievements lead to poor employment opportunities. Across Europe there are numerous populations of working-age that lack sufficient education to participate successfully in the labor market. As a result, European countries, including Bulgaria, are losing hundreds of millions of Euros annually in productivity and in fiscal contributions to the Governments. The Social Inclusion Project aims to address this issue helping Bulgaria to invest into equal education opportunities and achieve better equipped and trained young people, that will have better jobs earning more money - money which is needed to finance the pensions of older people.