School Educational Garden - Secondary School for Hearing Impaired Children, City of Sofia

The project has involved the creation of an educational garden within a resident school campus for hearing impaired children. The project started after 2010, with the garden now covering an area of over 800m2. It is managed and cared for by the teachers and pupils of the school.  Although the produce is diverse, the resulting quantity is not the primary objective of the garden. Instead, goals put a stress upon educational and therapeutic benefits, the aim being to bring children with hearing problems closer to nature and to occupy their free time with productive and relaxing activities. 

The garden has been supported through various mechanism, including the Ministry of education, a private telecommunications company and with help from an environmental NGO. Despite this, no longer term sustainable partnerships have been established. The relationship with the municipality in the field of UA has not been a positive one. In addition there have been conflicts which have centred on the area of land which the garden occupies – so far, more than half of the plot of land which was originally gifted for the school, at the end of the 19th century, has been expropriated by the municipality and made available to developers for construction projects. There is consequently significant pressure upon the school to constantly fight new development proposals. This is stressful and puts the UA practice at risk of failure.

The project is Interesting to EFUA because:

  • The initiative offers significant potential for delivering social integration and benefits for mental health and wellbeing.

  • The project has involved a number of partners through the years. However all partners appear to have their own agenda and have been working according in a largely uncoordinated manner, thereby effectively limiting the overall potential impact and benefits of the project.

  • Due to a lack of coordination of activities from the different mentoring agencies and protagonists, the long term viability and security of the project remains questionable. This includes the security of the land itself along with more routine aspects such as regular provision of materials, care for the garden outside school term etc. 

It will be interesting to see how different interests might influence the governance of an initiative which offers such high potential and whether governance itself might be better structured in future through more inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership approaches.

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