Corridors of puzzled refugee pupils entered Greek schools on Monday in a pilot program that met with controversy even before it began. Despite objections, the Greek Ministry of Education ensured that 1,500 refugees made their way to classrooms at 20 schools nationwide. By the end of the month there will be more than 10,000 children incorporated into the program that hopes for the induction of 18,000 youngsters from refugee families into schools by the end of the year.
There is no denying that Greek schools – already plagued with many shortages and problems – will find it hard to cope with the sudden influx and huge responsibility of being able to educate these children without a place to call “home”. The situation of course is not being made any easier by extreme reactions and violence shown at some schools.
But kids will be kids, and it was childhood innocence that prevailed in the end as the wide-eyed arrivals sizzled with excitement, nervousness and wonder. With their new books and school bags in tow, the youngsters traipsed to class hoping for some semblance of “normality” to enter their shattered lives. And normality begins with four-hour school days in afternoon classes that they will attend after local schoolchildren’s lessons have ended.
Here are some reactions:
The refugee children were given a musical welcome at Lavrion, southeastern Attica.
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and Greek children clapped and cheered for their new classmates. “Welcome! Kalosorisate!” they called out.
“These children fled hell! These children fled war,” said Boutaris at the 67th high school of Xyroprimni who brought sweets for the newcomers. “Soon they will learn Greek, you will be able to play together.”
The students at the 69th School were also welcoming.
Refugee kids got a singing welcome in the form of a group of parents singing the national anthem and hoisting a Greek flag at Oreokastro, near Thessaloniki.
Profitis, a few kilometres north of Thessaloniki
Parents momentarily padlocked the school gate to obstruct entry for 40 young pupils from Syria and Afghanistan about to begin their lessons. Around 100 police gathered to ensure that the youngsters got to classes despite the menacing mums waving Greek flags and outraged fathers hurling abuse at local education authorities. “Our children will be raped and then, who will take responsibility?” one parent shouted reports AFP.
Parents blocked the primary school, obstructing the way for refugee children while citing health concerns.
Stavroupolis High School
Parents of the 2nd high school of Stavroupolis were worried about their children catching hepatitis with the entry of refugee children into the schools. But at the end of the day, teen spirit prevailed and the Greek kids shooed their parents away showing that there may, indeed, be hope for the future.