ATHENS — With massive amounts of international debt following the Greek financial crisis and refugee influx, the importance of education in Greece seems to have gotten lost in the chaos.
Recently, the Greek government attempted to improve education in refugee camps, given that almost 40 percent of the current 54,000 refugees in Greece are children. Despite economic and political crises impacting the country, education for refugee children should be a critical social priority.
The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child explicitly holds Greece legally responsible for providing the children in refugee camps with access to an education.
Refugees who are teachers by profession, as well as, NGOs such as Lighthouse and I Am You are teaching classes in tents inside refugee camps. This is an attempt to re-acclimate children to working in a classroom setting.
In addition, a committee called Education for Refugee Children was created with the help of local, national and international organizations that work closely with the Ministry of Education to locate resources and funding for schools in refugee camps. They also work to integrate refugee children into the Greek education system.
Other organizations such as ELIX and Organization Earth have been advocating for children in Greece for years and are now shifting their focus to address the refugee education crisis. Both organizations are now working with large NGOs such as,UNICEF and Save the Children in order to fund educational programs.
Before the new academic year begins, the Greek government is working on a plan that will integrate all children in the public educational system. The most debated topic is to whether keep the temporary schools already established in approximately 40 refugee camps or to buss children to local schools instead.
The pressure is high on the Greek government as the number of refugees requiring education is increasing. It has been revealed that more than 1 in 5 school-aged children in Greek refugee camps have never been to school. The rest of them have been out of school for an average of 1.5 years and many of them cannot even hold a pencil, according to research done by Save the Children.
Many parents took it upon themselves to school their children in their tiny tents with no success. Because of the chaos and upheaval, concentration can be difficult especially now that many refugees have come to the realization that they may remain behind the closed borders of camp for a long time.
Unfortunately, refugee children education contrasts harshly with the one their parents received. Many parents in the refugee camps came from well-educated backgrounds. A survey by UNHCR revealed that about 86 percent of adult refugees had a secondary or university education, making it even harder for them to see their children grow up without education.
Now that the situation has come to light, numerous NGOs, as well as the Greek government are doing what they can to educate these children. Everyone deserves a shot at an education, and refugee children in Greece are no exception.
– Bella Chaffey