It’s been 13 years since I finished primary school. But I still remember the excitement I felt at the start of each school year as I bought my new school bag along with fancy pens, pencils, notebooks and stickers to decorate my books.
For many children in my home country Greece, school is an obligation and it’s often taken for granted. Until a few months ago, I never questioned why I went to school and how my life would be, if I hadn’t.
But all that changed when I visited the refugee camps in Greece and spoke with parents and children living in awful conditions. It made me realize that many children were not as fortunate as I was.
Terrorism and war has kept them out of school for years. On average, child refugees and migrants stranded in Greece have been out of school for more than 1.5 years. A shocking 45% of Syrian children have missed school for more than 3 years.
Suhail’s* words show the importance of education for child refugees and migrants: “We always have to study and go to school to rebuild our future. Without school we cannot rebuild our future.”
Save the Children staff give a Greek language class to young refugees and migrants stranded in Skaramangas camp, near Athens. Save the Children is now running non-formal classes across Greece, where children of all ages can attend English, Greek, Mathematics, Geography and History classes. More than 3.300 asylum seekers are currently stranded in Skaramangas camp.
Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space, Learning Space, and Mother and Baby Area in Skaramangas are funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department.
Suhail is from Afghanistan and has faced many barriers accessing education back home. He says it became too dangerous for him to walk to school. For Suhail, education is the tool to help rebuild his life. And every day he spends at Save the Children’s classes in Greece, helps him make up for the lost time.
Suhail*, a 13-year-old boy from Afghanistan, attends Save the Children’s informal classes in a camp near Athens.
Many children in the refugee camps in Greece don’t even know how to write their names, yet they can differentiate the various sounds of bombs and warplanes.
For these children, the color or design of their school bags and notebooks don’t interest them much. They are just looking forward to get into the classroom and for the lesson to start.
As one of them told me: “Today I close the door to my past and I open the door to my future, I take a deep breath and I step into a new life.”
On Universal Children’s Day on 20 November 2016, Save the Children is calling for all children to have the right to survive, learn and be protected. In particular, we believe no child refugee should be out of school for more than 30 days to ensure they don’t fall behind and waste the best years of their lives.
Save the Children is providing basic education through temporary classrooms in the refugee camps in Greece, as well as providing schools supplies such as pens, pencils, backpacks and books. Save the Children’s education programs in Greece are funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department.
Anna Pantelia is a Communications Officer working with Save the Children in Greece.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
Save the Children is providing school bags to child refugees in Malakasa camp near Athens. This is part of the organization’s education programme, which also includes informal classes in English, Greek, Mathematics and History for children of all ages.