Research conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research indicates that rural communities are not very active in public life – as many as 52% of countryside inhabitants declare to take no or little interest in politics. At the same time, we know from our experience that engaging children, for instance, by parents and school employees and cooperation with schools have positive impact on activating the entire community. Such initiatives teach citizens from an early age how to be socially active.
We have responded to the problem of low civic activity in our region, namely in the Brzeski and Bochenski commune (in the Małopolskie province), by implementing the School Participatory Budget (SPB) in three rural primary schools. We selected schools from various communes to popularise the SPB method in a larger and more diversified area. We created a separate working team made of the representatives of pupils, school and parents for each school. We also prepared general SPB organisational regulations. Then we promoted the method. Children and youths proposed 99 ideas for projects, we run a voting and carried out 28 projects selected by participants.
Our partners included three schools willing to implement the School Participatory Budget that got their pupils engaged, namely Rotmistrz Witold Pilecki Primary School in Jodłówka, John Paul II and Cardinal Wyszyński Primary School No 2 in Jadowniki and the Henryk Sienkiewicz Commune School Complex in Bogucice.
Evaluation survey results show that our activities helped strengthen social and civic competencies of school working teams and to enhance the sense of agency among participants and make them believe more that their ideas are feasible. Furthermore, participants confirmed that their writing and project planning skills had improved.