A kindergarten in Bulgaria, Source: Bulgarian Ministry for Regional Development and Public Works

Kindergarten crisis in Sofia prolonged by delayed construction

Kindergarten crisis in Sofia prolonged by delayed construction

10,000 kids failed to find a place in the overcrowded municipal kindergartens this summer and the construction of new facilities is very slow

Yesterday, during a meeting of the Sofia Municipal Council a dispute broke out over whether the 12 new kindergartens and nurseries scheduled for completion this year will actually meet their deadlines. Councillor Diana Tonova warned that many of the projects will need at least another year before opening to the public.

The situation in Bulgaria’s capital reached a tipping point this summer when 10,000 kids failed to find a place in the already overcrowded municipal kindergartens and a further 4,000 could not get into private ones. This provoked a wave of protests against the mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, as protesters called for her resignation.

Unrealistic ambition

Sofia launched an ambitious campaign for the construction of kindergartens in the period between 2021 and 2023. The project aimed to open 22 new kindergartens and nurseries with the first batch of 12 set to complete this year.

However, Councillor Tonova explained that five of the sites have not passed the construction planning phase yet and another two – in the Pavlovo and Pancharevo neighbourhoods are set to be complete in 2022 at the earliest. Another two, in Ovcha Kupel and Krastova Vada, going through redevelopment for the past four years, will be delayed further.

The rest of the scheduled kindergartens have not entered the construction planning stages yet, as the municipality has only recently started exploring the purchase of land from private owners. Councillor Tonova explained that the city has 4 million euros set aside for acquiring land in this year’s budget.

A history of migration

Bulgaria has one of the fastest shrinking populations in the world, due to relatively high mortality and low birth rates, and a negative growth rate of 0.67% per year. However, as the population declines in the countryside, the capital has remained relatively unscathed and, in some years, has even registered demographic growth.

This is due to the constant stream of internal migration in search of higher wages and better opportunities in the big city. This is especially true for young families. In 2010, 11,186 children were born in Sofia out of a total of 74,234 for the country.

For comparison, in 2020 the number was 13,156 out of 59,440 children. This means that roughly a quarter of Bulgaria’s children were born in Sofia. While building more kindergartens could potentially fix the problem, the underlying condition for it to be there will still remain.



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