In Bulgaria, MenCare partner Association Roditeli is leading an effort to engage fathers in their children’s education. As part of this initiative, a guidebook entitled Invite Fathers to Kindergarten has been distributed to more than 200 kindergartens in the capital city of Sofia and to five kindergartens in the Samokov municipality.
The guidebook was created by kindergarten teachers for their colleagues, and it contains real-life experiences from various initiatives to engage fathers in education. Bulgarian fathers are not used to being invited into school – unless their child is being disciplined. The book, however, encourages teachers to ask fathers to participate in the school community in a variety of ways: in celebrations, in school maintenance and improvement projects, and in school-based activities with and for their children and family members.
Evidence shows the importance of fathers and children spending quality time together and sharing their experiences. Association Roditeli’s aim is to work with educational professionals to show them that schools can also benefit when fathers become more involved. As a result of this initiative, many teachers have begun to establish greater communication with their students’ fathers, and fathers have become more active in their children’s education and schools.
There is much work left to be done, however. As one teacher in the program said last year: “I always invite the father – I call the father every time the mother is unavailable!” It is necessary to break down these gendered stereotypes about fathers as “substitute parents” or “helpers,” and to normalize their equal capacity and potential for care.
In the coming months, a second guidebook will be published and disseminated. The book, Daddy Is Also Going to School, includes information about children’s transition to first grade and their fathers’ role in this process.