Kiril Boyanov: We Have to Turn Education Charity into a Mass Activity
Novinite has interviewed Kiril Boyanov, Chairperson of the board of the Eureka foundation.
Boyanov was picked by readers of our Bulgarian-language website, Novinite.bg, as 2014's Personality in the News in the Diplomacy section.
The Eureka foundation supports young talent and realizes projects in the spheres of science, technology and management. Boyanov has a doctoral degree in science and has contributed to the creation of groundbreaking calculation equipment. He is a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Science and has overseen the introduction and implementation of the World Wide Web in Bulgaria in the 1990s.
What is it that gives you an incentive to be engaged in charity?
I have always thought that talented children should be encouraged. As a rule, more attention was paid previously to weaker students. Additional classes were held with them, and stronger ones were “attached” to the process of providing assistance. Schooling was directed at a fictitious "average level” of students, which hardly exists, maybe to enable teachers to attain a better performance of the class, and the school respectively. In the beginning of the 90s I made a donation, through the “St Cyril and Methodius” foundation, to give a financial award to a leader graduate of Informatics at the Sofia University and a leader graduate in the newly-founded electronics high school. I still remember the name of the first bearer from Informatics – Reneta Barneva.
Which are the priority groups for your charity initiatives?
Sponsorship and charity are related to one’s interior, one’s need of some kind. Provisionally I would set out two groups: sponsors with bigger opportunities who provide incentives for the construction of churches, schools, monuments, etc. and benefactors who help accommodation centers for the disabled, elderly and ill people, pupils, students. I add myself to the second group, I made a donation for a memorial plaque and donations to encourage students and specialists. I will mark an initiative over the past few years of academicals from the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS) to increase salaries of young teachers.
What is the role of young people for the quick development of the economy and culture in the information society?
The information society is a new concept probably linked to the Internet and computer networks. It has some specific features and its challenges. One of its characteristics is – no dispute with philosophers intended – that it is developed thanks to the young people, to their exceptional capacities and skills. The opportunities they are given by communications, by their unencumbered nature, their push to know the reality determine for them a special place for the development of the economy and culture. We are seeing an impetuous incursion of talents in the spiritual field and in mathematics, physics, chemistry and so on. The huge technological achievements are with due to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the young people. Part of the achievements of the Nobel laureates were made by young people.
I think it would be good for young people who are oriented towards scientific development to ask adults as well, since they have experience. Let’s not forget the old proverb: “If the elderly could, if the young knew”. It is a pity that many talents leave Bulgaria, this is a problem both in political terms and for the society.
What is the attitude of young people to science nowadays?
There are many young people, pupils and students, with a certain taste for scientific studies. They are looking for high-profile education institutions and strong supervisors. Unfortunately, the mindset of a vast part of our society is related to the opportunities of financial benefit at an older age. Maybe this leads to the orientation of young people to occupations in trade, finance, tourism, folk music, etc.
Almost all or most of youngsters who studied science or humanities, as well as art abroad have found realization. How to draw them back? I will give an example: a talented engineer who defended his PhD at a prestigious university in the US invited to work and study in a university in Germany asked me a question about the prospects here. And he had no requirements as to the salary, since he is of a wealthy family. What could I answer? Those looking for knowledge and who can, love science. It is time we look for, find and propose approaches to bring them back home, a process that will continue for some time.
How do you manage to provide stimuli and encourage talented young people for their development?
It gets harder and harder, or I should say that under the present circumstances I am wondering what to do. Though I hold no nostalgia, I had a circle of associates who worked with enthusiasm and vision. Out of 32 who defended their PhDs, most are professors or managers.
When a talented student graduates, which scientific priorities should I point out to them? With low scholarships it is difficult, and if one seeks development it is a natural thing to turn to the business field, especially in new technologies, otherwise how will one create a family and become a respected member of society? Isn’t it high time to point out what kind of an economy we are to build a what sciences we will develop?
What are young Bulgarian managers and inventors’ achievements in science?
Over the years the Eureka foundations has been helping young students and managers, activities have been conducted to promote scientific, technical and economic knowledge. Many economic initiatives realized by the foundation’s scholars could be pointed out. A balance for the past 25 years includes 8 756 individual and joint projects fulfilled by the organization or with its help and support.
Are 25 years a lot or a little time for the Eureka Foundation?
A lot or a little? A lot, because it went through many difficulties that we had to overcome, financial problems and so on. A little, because the experience gathered has to be used so that the foundation firmly positions itself in society to earn more state support. One of the tasks is to make charity a mass and continuous phenomenon. Imagine that each one of the 10 000 employed people, which is above 1% of the workforce, grants BGN 100 every year. In this group there are well-to-do citizens. This means BGN 1 M every year that are to be allocated as scholarships and grants for talents. In years we will have top experts, even ones we will be able to export. We are trying to attract legal entities as subjects: companies, organizations, etc. The company Huawei Technologies sponsors 10 scholarship receivers with a five-year contract. We are carrying out talks with banks. If we succeed, it will be a good sign. We have a lot of other ideas about workshops, open discussions with young people with ideas and so on. We are yet to set foot on the wider roads.
How could Bulgaria become a leading country in the high-tech sector?
This question is rather to politicians. Nearly all European states are developing a high-tech sector. Switzerland, apart from tourism, develops precision mechanics; Denmark, apart from agriculture, develops measuring equipment. The fact that we have well-developed electronics, pharmacy, etc. shows we can. We need clear priorities, investment and education to have a source of staff. We have to make clear what high technology we would like to develop. Our indicators have mostly determined [we need] information technologies and communications, genetic engineering, nano-technologies, built-in specialized systems, etc.
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