As the UN marks International Migrants Day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has released data according to which more than 2,500 refugees and migrant children attend Greek schools in the framework of the EU-funded educational program.
At first it was difficult for the predominantly Christian Orthodox Greek society to incorporate the predominantly Muslim refugees and migrants who arrived in the country over the past few years.
However, despite initial difficulties, the program to integrate the children of migrants and refugees in Greek schools, is now deemed a success.
The European Union is funding the program and IOM ensures the transportation and escort of the children from the hospitality centres on Mainland Greece to the nearest schools. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Research and Religious Affairs, IOM’s Greek mission implements the program, providing children with necessary school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils and other school items.
According to IOM figures from March 2017, 61 school buses transport around 2,500 children daily to 94 school facilities located close to hospitality centres. At the same time there are unofficial school classes inside hospitality camps with volunteer teachers.
A school bus driver who drives children from the Eleonas camp in Athens to a nearby school said that many children run happily to the bus, and when the school day ends, they don’t want to leave school.
Of the 2,500 children who attended classes in Greece in the last school year, more than 1,000 children from 11 hospitality centres joined the training program from the beginning of 2017. Thousands of other children living in and out of hospitality centres, attend informal classes. It is estimated that a total of 9,000 children of migrants and refugees attend formal or informal classes.
The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) started a new project to help refugee children enter in the Greek school system. Dubbed ‘Back to School’, the project is designed to encourage families to confront their fears, concerns and questions about education in Greece.
Back to School is part of the ESTIA program (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation), supported by UNHCR and the European Commission. It is also supported by Polychromi Poli (Colorful City), a program of the Attica Region, offering psychosocial and educational support to refugee children.