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November 1, 2017

Child Tracking: The Crisis in Bulgaria

By Viktor Kostov, PhD
Missiologist, attorney-at-law
Freedom for All

Last July, the Bulgarian government issued an executive decision which in seven short pages mobilizes a long list of state agencies, central and local, to track down, register, enroll, and retain all children in the compulsory education system.

The situation can be described as a developing crisis for homeschool freedom.

The text of Resolution No. 373, issued July 5, 2017, by the Bulgarian Council of Ministers speaks for itself. Through its “enrollment teams,” each of which will consist of a teacher, local education department inspector, social worker, and a policeman, the state aims to make sure all children are enrolled in school.

At this point it seems the government is only collecting information and building a database. Although it is intimidating to have someone show up at your door and ask you questions about the whereabouts of your children, there haven’t been any reported incidents.

The only problem, flatly denied by the Ministry of Education, was brought to the public’s attention by a homeschooling dad. He found that all the forms used to collect information on children for enrollment were easily accessible online. The unprotected database was not searchable but easy enough to manipulate in order to find and download personal information, including names and addresses for about 1.2 million schoolchildren.

The recent actions of the Bulgarian authorities provide a clear picture as to how a totalitarian state can use education as a means of invading family privacy, violating parental rights, and in fact, gaining full control over families.

The Bulgarian constitution and laws favor compulsory state education. What the Council of Ministers is doing with Resolution No. 373 is just claiming their executive authority within the existing internal legal framework. The chilling part is that the authorities’ control over parents and their children is in this way perfectly justified by the nation’s laws.

To be fair, it’s possible the government’s intentions are not as sinister as they seem. The unstated reason for the latest attempts to draw all children into the state education system is to integrate the large Roma community—which traditionally has functioned outside mainstream society. The European Union has granted funds to the Bulgarian government specifically for this task.

State officials most likely think they are doing a good thing by attempting to fulfill the right of everyone to receive an education. However, the “right to education” ceases to be a right when it is forced upon someone.

Worse, enforcing this new policy will unavoidably result in the violation of other basic rights.

This is because, when writing laws and executive orders on compulsory education, the authorities disregard any contradictions with constitutional and international human rights. They do this based on their belief that compulsory state education overrides all other interests and rights including family life and privacy as well as freedom of conscience and religion as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Consequently, the result of unchallenged socialism is always the loss of freedom. If the state has laid the necessary legal framework to silence dissenters by presenting legislation as the government protecting people’s rights (in this case “right” to education), then all they need to do is trigger the mechanism at the right moment to begin the enforcement of their desired complete control over the people. Then the government’s logical explanation will be that they are simply applying the law that is on the books.

Our hope is the obvious contradiction of internal law with international law, human rights treaties, and the principles of a democratic society allowing for parental guidance in choice of education will come to light. Bulgarian homeschool organizations have tried to push back against this new state attempt to turn education into a modern serfdom. However, there haven’t been any significant developments in the dialogue with the Ministry of Education besides a meeting with the department officials, scheduled for next week.

These latter developments have spiked an interest among homeschoolers in learning how to protect their rights and freedoms. On October 26 in Sofia we organized a day’s seminar on freedom of education and legal means to protect the right to educate one’s children at home. It is certain that Resolution No. 373/5.7.2017 of the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria is a standing threat to basic human rights and to freedom of education and must be eventually revoked.