Power to school kids! Students in Chernihiv region will receive a budget for their projects
What is the school participation budget and why do Ukrainians need it?
"I don't want people to decide for me!" every teenager says these words at least once in their life. Teenagers from the Koriukivka community in the Chernihiv region will now make their own decisions about the schools they attend. Do you need recreation space? Do you dream of installing a bicycle parking lot or a "smart" bench in the schoolyard? Is there not enough supplies for the learning process? Do you want to go on a school trip? No problem! Join the School Participation Budget and if other students have supported it, the government will implement it at the expense of the budget.
The All-Ukrainian Sociological Survey "Youth of Ukraine – 2017," commissioned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, showed that almost half of young people living in territorial communities note no changes for young people after the communities were created, and more than a third of young people believe local authorities don't take their opinion into account when making decisions. However, the positive point is that more than half of young people are willing to personally join the initiatives in the community, i.e. ready to change their lives for the better.
The active youth center of the Koriukivka territorial community is the Youth Center "KUB." Its members initiated the introduction of a new public activity tool in the community. As part of the Active Youth – Successful Community project, the Youth Council has developed an advocacy campaign for the School Participation Budget.
For three years in a row, the public budget has been successfully operating in the Koriukivka community. The residents' initiatives, which find the greatest support among their landsmen, are being successfully implemented at the expense of the City Council. Now even a 5th grader can compete for money from the local budget and contribute to the community's development.
Why school kids?
"While working on 'grown-up' public budget projects, we noticed that very few people of school age were involved in submitting projects and voting on ready-made projects," says Volodymyr Onyschuk, a youth council activist and director of the Koriukivka City Youth Center KUB. "By implementing the School Participation Budget, we sought to activate students, involve them in decision-making, teach them not to be afraid to defend their initiatives, and unite around common ideas."
The Active Youth – Successful Community project is implemented in Koriukivka with the support of the British Embassy in Ukraine and the Active Citizens Program of the British Council in Ukraine, with organizational support from the Skyscraper Sustainable Development Agency and the Ukrainian Youth Workers Association. First, during the advocacy campaign, the project creators tried to get the support of teachers and activists of schools and school parliaments; for teachers and students of 13 schools, the community organized meetings with experienced coaches, with whom KUB activists explained what the school budget is, how it will work. They explained how to create projects, gave examples of their implementation in other communities and countries, refuted fakes and speculations. At the same time, they worked out the program and provisions of the school participation budget in the Koriukivka community.
"We convinced the teachers and parents of the project's importance. The children accepted the project with interest and enthusiasm, and the city council agreed to finance it. It's the main indicator of its success," says Volodymyr Onyschuk. "Then it's up to students and their teachers to respond to the opportunity to do something useful and necessary for their schools. I'm sure that young people should be taught to be active and enterprising from the school-age: to take care of their space, their school, because everything starts small."
The best wins? Everyone wins!
The difference between the school participation budget and the public budget is that the institutions won't compete for the best initiative. The city council will allocate 5,000 hryvnias from the budget for each educational institution. That is, all participating schools will have the opportunity to implement their plans. It's also very important that the local authorities support any youth initiatives of the Youth Center "KUB." Mayor Ratan Akhmedov assured that if students were interested and school budgeting became popular, over time, project funding could increase several-fold.
The school participation budget will start working in the Koriukivka community this fall. Summer holidays are ahead for schoolchildren; it's time for them to accumulate ideas. In October, every student from 5th to 11th grade will be able to submit their personal or collective projects for consideration by the school commission. After checking them for compliance with the requirements, the commission will allow their ideas to voting. According to the project's initiators, the School Public Budget is a great opportunity for young people to see and feel democracy in action. After all, in contrast to parliamentary elections or elections to local government bodies, even those who've not reached the age of 14-18 yet can take part in the public budget process.
How does this solution work?
The school public budget is a powerful innovative tool for community participation that is being actively implemented around the world to involve students in the decision-making process that affects them, as well as to encourage and develop their active community participation and communication with the community. Thanks to the school's public budget, student leadership develops, students' voices become more powerful, and the entire school institution receives the practical experience of community cooperation. Healthy relationships and partnerships are built between students, teachers, school administration, and parents, and a sense of belonging to the community, school community, and citizenship is strengthened.
For the first time in Ukraine, the school public budget was implemented in the Poltava region, within the regional program of public initiatives "Participation Budget of Poltava region for 2017-2020." The public activists' idea was received with enthusiasm by students and their parents. In 2019, within the Poltava project, 160 projects from creators from 23 districts of the Poltava region were submitted and admitted to electronic voting.
They were implemented in the 2020 budget year. The main theme of such projects was the improvement of the school grounds: tennis court, sports areas for games; street exercise machines, bicycle parking lots, "green zones"; modernization of school canteens, gyms, and locker rooms; improvement of material and technical equipment: sports equipment, library funds, subject equipment of physics, chemistry, biology, foreign languages classrooms; computer equipment, music equipment; safe and comfortable conditions: quality drinking water, video surveillance, modern design; TOP innovations: VR-glasses, school radio, chess blitz for young people; creation of recreation areas on school grounds and indoors.
"This is a cool tool of democracy," said Anna Kondratieva, the mother of one of the participants in the school's public budget. "Children see problems, the things they lack, and try to solve them through project activities. This work unites, teaches them to make decisions and implement them, gives children a new experience, which, of course, will help in the future choice of profession.
Abroad, one great example of implementing a public school budget is the city of Cascais in Portugal. In five years, dozens of student projects have been implemented in local schools. Among the proposals: repairing showers and bathrooms, purchasing tablets as substitutes for books, purchasing wardrobes in larger quantities and better quality, in particular, modernizing chairs and desks, and other improvements in school conditions. Initially, each school had a budget of 2,500 euros for the students' suggestion, and two years ago it was increased 4 times!
In Poland, the School Public Budget has been actively implemented since 2017. To date, it has been introduced by more than 50 schools in various municipalities. Very often the School Participation Budget becomes part of the overall Public budget, actively developed in cities, and this creates a favorable environment for the growing popularity of school public budgets throughout Poland. In most cities, school public budget project management is the sole responsibility of school administrations, which decide on the process, format, budget, and proposal selection rules. The winning projects can be outsourced (i.e. a professional company can be hired to implement the project, for example, an event company to organize a summer camp for students) or implemented by the students.
In France, the school participation budget in primary and secondary schools is part of the general public budget. In 2019, 91% of primary schools and 96% of secondary schools (colleges) in Paris have voluntarily participated in the school public budget. The Paris administration provides subsidies to schools for purchasing equipment needed for projects, as well as assists in the selection of technical solutions and suppliers.
School public budgets also operate successfully in Italy and Lithuania.
In Ukraine, the school public budget has also already been implemented in Vinnytsia, Ternopil, Zaporizhzhia, Kramatorsk, and Kremenchuk. Now Koriukivska territorial community will join these cities. "We believe," the Youth Center KUB states, "that the more active young people care about the life of their community, the more value this place where young people live obtains! There's a lot of work ahead, but we have strong support! We believe that this year the Koryukivka community will be the first in the Chernivtsi region to implement the best ideas of our students!"