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30.09.2016 13:26

Meet Zlatko - he himself chose to call him so, because he wants to be like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and football is his greatest passion.

This is his escape from the harsh reality in which he is placed. He is kicking the ball and trying to keep out of others "kicking" him... Zlatko is the youngest occupant of one of the 6 Correctional Boarding Schools in Bulgaria. He is only 11 years old, and Bulgaria is the only country in Europe in which children under 14 years are punished with (practically) imprisonment.

The Correctional Boarding School is an old and large building where little boys and girls are enclosed – to be punished for "antisocial" acts like stealing a magazine, running away from home or begging on the street and roaming around. It is difficult to explain to Zlatko why a child at his age is punished for something that no adults would be punished. His placement in the correctional boarding school aims to “re-educate” him, to make him a better person. But the reality is very different – he is detained and isolated from his family, he spends every day in an semi-empty building, fighting for food, shampoo and personal space with other children, often he becomes a victim of violence. He is studying together with other children from different classes and ages – being taught by teachers who teach both Math and sports. Zlatko earns pocket money by begging and doing small “favors” for the people in the nearby village. He does not know how long he will stay in the correctional boarding school or whether he will be released for the holidays…whether he has future at all. The main thing he feels is that he is "nobody" and he “deserves” his destiny. He is getting the lifelong label - "inmate of a correctional boarding school".

 

Children in conflict with the law are often victims of the poverty of their parents. Zlatko too. Because the system has concluded that it is better for him to be in the correctional boarding school instead with them. His parents could not protect him. Children in conflict with the law are often victims of violence. Zlatko too. Behind the children's “mistakes” there lies a long line of failures in the care and responsibility by the adults. Not only parents, but also the State. Children are too young to have SENTENCED CHILDHOOD that will destroy their lives.


Zlatko does not know how long he will be "sentenced". He counts on his small fingers not the days but the years ... But still – he has dreams, he shows us the movements of his favorite ninja from the cartoons. He wants to protect the weaker and to be a role model.

 

He says he is sorry, but also – that it is unfair for him to be in the correctional boarding school. He fights for his life doing sports, making pottery and believing that there will be justice for him and for the others.

JUSTICE FOR EVERY CHILD.

 

Every child must have access to a fair trial, adequate education and individual support to realize his or her mistakes and to correct him or herself. The spiral: “punishment - misbehavior – punishment” should be discontinued! Now. Because children cannot wait and have the right to a next chance.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Bulgaria and NOVA Broadcasting Group have launched a mutual campaign, aimed at raising awareness and sensitizing society about the rights of children in conflict with the law; guaranteeing their access to fair trial and improving their chances for resocialization and reintegration. The campaign supports the reform in the system of juvenile justice: why this reform is a must, you will find out through the stories about the destinies of children, who will be aired every Saturday morning in the "Wake up!" TV programme on NOVA.

The name of the child is changed in order to preserve his identity.

About UNICEF:    
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

For more information:   
Jacklin Tzocheva, Communication Officer, UNICEF Bulgaria  
Tel: 02/9696208, E-mail: jtzocheva@unicef.org 

 

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.