For almost a decade, Greece has been dealing with many multileveled and severe challenges since the onset of the ongoing financial crisis, with the influx of refugees being the most recent one. Greek schools struggle with issues connected to these challenges daily.
A big number of refugee children have spent a long time away from home and as a result away from school. It is Greece’s obligation to provide the opportunity to these children to re-join education or to attend school for the first time.
Greece acknowledges its obligations to provide access to education in line with international conventions, and important steps are taken to strengthen refugee education in Greece. The new education law (June 7th 2018) includes a chapter on Refugee education. The same rules on school enrolment apply regardless of residence or legal status.
For the school year 2017-2018 approximately 8000 refugee children were enrolled in 980 Greek schools. For the school year 2018 – 2019 between 12 000-13 000 refugee children are expected to be enrolled in up to 1500 schools. A further increase is expected for the school year 2019 – 2020.
Even though legal and structural provisions are in place, there is not always the necessary support for all the schools where refugee children are enrolled once they are there. There is limited training, practical guides or good practices offered to schools on how to manage the situation, which may cause tensions and conflicts in the classroom, in the school environment, with parents and the local community.
EWC’s project addresses a particular gap in the provision of education to refugee children. On an operational level, the integration of refugee children into the educational system is funded from different sources. For instance, substitute teachers for reception classes are recruited by funds secured through the European Social Fund (ESF), transport of refugee children from accommodation centres to schools are covered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). UNICEF provides support for interpreting services to schools.
However, there is very little funding in place for support, guidance and training for the whole school community once the refugee children are in schools. The national Institute of Educational Policy (IEP), under the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, is responsible for the content of refugee education, but because of the austerity measures in Greece limited in-service training is provided for teachers.
With the generous support of the EEA/Norway Grants, EWC and partners aim to address this situation. Through the project school directors and teachers are trained to create safe and inclusive schools and classrooms where refugees are welcomed into a learning environment which aims to provide quality education to all. The training aims to equip school directors and teachers with the tools, competence and confidence to manage controversy and deal with issues concerning intolerance, discrimination, racism and hate speech in school and the local community.