Raya's Path to Become a Teacher

“I was in a hospital in Germany, when I got a call from the principal of the “1st of June” kindergarten in the village of Buthan. I was working there as an assistant teacher.” This call turned Raya Simeonova’s life upside down. Fate was confronting her with the most difficult of challenges.  Her fourteen year old son, Malin, had been battling cancer since he was two.  His doctors in Bulgaria could not do any more to help, so Raya and her son had traveled to Germany.  
And exactly when she was 2000 km from her homeland, Raya was given the news that the Trust for Social Achievement was initiating a project that could help her make her dream come true by receiving support to become a young Roma teacher.  
This is how Raya’s long path began. With the help of the “Young Roma Teachers” project she managed to prepare for her university admission exams to become a kindergarten teacher. At the time Raya was working two jobs but she successfully passed her exams nonetheless and was admitted in the Vratsa branch of the Veliko Tarnovo University. 
“I am proud to be a good example for the children in the kindergarten and their parents. When a child runs towards me, saying ‘Miss, I love you so much, you’re my favorite teacher’ – it’s a moment, I wouldn’t trade for anything”, says Raya.  
80% of the children in the “1st of June” kindergarten in Buthan are from Roma families. Though Roma in this village are quite integrated and many Roma complete a university education, according to Raya, there are still community members who don’t value the need for literacy. Their children encounter difficulties in learning the Bulgarian language. This is why Raya thinks that one of the key advantages of Roma teachers is that they are bilingual and can help these young pupils. This is an additional argument for the crucial role of and need for such a project that not only contributes toward personal development, but also helps motivate Roma children and youth to continue their education.   
While Raya persists in her journey, 2020 delivered her another challenge.  “My son got sick again. I was so crushed, but my husband insisted that I continue and he took the lead in caring for our son. The fight for Malin’s health continues to this day, but now I know that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, she shares.  
Despite the tough challenges, Raya will soon become a qualified children’s teacher, with the university diploma she has dreamed of for so long in hand. 
Since the “Young Roma Teachers” project began in 2018, 44 people have received support to prepare for and attend university. Participants  also get to practice teach in kindergartens that are partners in the project.