Greek schools are welcoming more refugee and migrant children who have been stranded in Greece since April of last year, according to UNICEF.
Major efforts by the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs supported by UNICEF to get as many children as possible into school, are seen as a crucial step to integrate refugee and migrant children into Greek society.
“Without education, a generation of children in Greece will be lost, without the necessary skills to contribute to their countries and economies, and at greater risk of exclusion. Getting children, whose lives have been on hold back into school, will help them communicate and socialise with Greek children and help them rebuild their futures,” says Laurent Chapuis, the country coordinator for UNICEF’s Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece.
Although getting their children a good education was a key reason for many leaving their countries in the first place, there have been major hurdles in school enrolment of the stranded children.
Some children have missed up to two and a half years of schooling during their journeys, and to date less than a third of the 12,000 children of school age have had access to formal education.
Language barriers and capacity within the system, stress and trauma leading to poor concentration and high drop-out rates, and resistance to learning Greek as many hope to continue their journey to other parts of Europe, were among the reasons that have kept children out of school.
With the support of the EU and German government, UNICEF contributes to government efforts to enrol children through communication, sensitization and interpretation, teacher training, homework support, early childhood education and non-formal education for children out of school or who are still on the move to relocate to other countries.
To date, UNICEF’s non-formal education programme has benefited around 5,000 children with an aim to prepare for formal school.
In addition to the positive long-term impact of social cohesion, integrating refugee and migrant children into the Greek education system will also benefit Greek children and host communities throughout the country in very tangible ways. For example, almost 700 new teachers will be recruited for reception classes.