Athens Keeps Schools Open for Locals and Refugees



Greeks and refugees are provided free equipment and guided by experienced film makers to produce their own films about the refugee crisis.

An initiative by the City of Athens to keep schools open after class for Greeks and refugees alike has won acclaim by the Council of Europe.

Through the Athens Open Schools program, 25 public schools are kept open after class, on afternoons and weekends, hosting free recreation and development activities for residents of all ages.

The aim is to revitalize neighborhoods, provide safe public spaces and opportunities for growth amid difficult conditions.

Free activities include studying space through a digital planetarium, football team training, lessons in beatboxing, and learning how to film your own documentary.

Children saw the vast space of the Digital Planetarium set up in the courtyard of their neighborhood school, through the Athens Open Schools program.

“By transforming 25 public schools into centers for scientific, creative and sports activities, as well as for language courses for Athenians and refugees, the city of Athens managed to bring together refugee and Greek children … and offer refugee children a safe environment where they can learn and spend time outside of their accommodation centers”, states the Council of Europe’s Handbook.

Athens Open Schools, which is based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, forms part of a wider effort to leverage the support of the private sector for innovative initiatives that improve the quality of life in Athens.

In the Petralona Open School, young people from different countries and cultures are trained in the art of Human Beatbox, the production of vocal sounds exclusively using the human mouth, imitating musical instruments.

It is one among more than 12 projects coordinated for the City of Athens by the Athens Partnership, an independent non-profit organization created at the height of the economic crisis in 2015 to develop high-impact public-private partnerships.

“By bringing together private sector donors, as well as companies, voluntary groups and many more actors, Athens is showing a way forward out of the crisis for Greece. Through these programs, the public sector is becoming more open, assuming a new role by leading social innovation with tangible results,” says Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership.

Greek children and refugees learned to play football at Athens Open Schools through FutbolNet, a Barcelona Football Association program implemented by Praksis, based on a grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Outcomes from the Athens Partnership’s work with the Municipality include steps toward creating a model city center in the Athens Trigono neighborhood, including pedestrianizing 10 streets and cleaning up 6.000 of tags and graffiti; remodeling 24 schools through the participatory redesign of their buildings and classrooms; organizing the pilot operation of the first municipal health clinic in Kypseli that offers health and social services under one roof, free of charge, and enhancing the city’s refugee response by bringing together 80 Greek and international organizations and agencies to coordinate and cover gaps in services provision, through the new Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues. These and more results are listed in the Athens Partnership biennial report recently launched.

“The Athens Partnership is helping to drive change and advance city priorities at an unprecedented pace,” says Mayor Georgios Kaminis. “This new model is not only facilitating impactful new programs, it is also helping the City of Athens to reimagine its public spaces and deliver services more effectively.”