From Gaza to Samos, education keeps hope alive for refugee children
Mustafa and Soher from Palestine talk about the important role that school played in the psychology of their three children, who came to Greece a few months ago, and how it helped them to love the language and their new life.
Mustafa came to Samos from Gaza, Palestine, about a year ago, while his wife, Soher, along with their three children, Lulu, 7, Yunis, 10, and Kente, 9, came to the island in December 2022. Since then, they have been living in the Closed Controlled Access Center in the Zervou location of the Municipality of Eastern Samos.
Mustafa and Soher graduated from the University of Gaza and are teachers, although they only got to practice their profession for a limited time.
The children attended school in their country of origin. Upon arrival on the island and after a short period of time, the children were enrolled in the 2nd Primary School of Samos. The process of enrolling the children in school was easier and more straightforward than the family imagined, with the team of the "Alki Zei" Homework and Creative Activities Center of ARSIS, in Samos, supporting and helping them in whatever they needed.
While they were adjusting to school, but also to their new life on the island, the systematic work done at the Homework and Creative Activities Center of ARSIS, which contributes to the children's love of the Greek language, has paid off. Yunis, Kente and Lulu are helped in the Center with a program of learning support, reinforcement of learning subjects, as well as a number of creative activities.
"The children love the island...", Soher explains, "...because the place is small and makes them feel safe. They are having a much better time and have learned the language very quickly. They come home and say new things, and we wonder how they learned them."
"I keep hearing them talking to each other and saying new words in Greek, I'm learning them too. Yunis was very happy with the lesson yesterday. And they love handicrafts very much.”
She also points out their great enthusiasm and appetite to learn, despite the difficulties they faced upon arrival in a new country. As she says:
"It's early and it's normal for children to struggle when they go to a new place. But they manage, they do well. Actually, during rainy days when they didn't go to school, they were very sad.”
"My little daughter, Lulu, wakes us up and asks me to wake up her siblings too so they can go to school quickly – they don't want to miss the bus!
"The children are happy and they wait for Monday to come. They plan, they prepare and they want to do different things, to engage in many activities."
The children feel good in the Center and share their dreams for the future. Lulu says she wants to be a cook while Yunis wants to be a pilot!
As Mustafa says "at the end of the day, the child is the one to choose and we just stand by."
He then adds that the school has contributed significantly in the psychology of children which is much better than in previous years:
"They are much calmer and happier since they started school. It is very important for them. At first we were afraid that there would be bullying, because the children are from another country and speak another language. Luckily that didn't happen! And we are much better psychologically also."
The Homework and Creative Activities Center "Alki Zei" of ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth has been operating in Malagari, Samos since November 2021, within the framework of the "All Children in Education" programme.
The programme "All Children in Education" is a UNICEF initiative co-funded by the European Union and implemented by a number of partners, including ARSIS.