Keeping Hope for Refugee Children in Greece alive
Three years after her arrival in Greece, Neda shares her own 'journey' and talks about how school helped her to integrate into a new reality, allowing her to have dreams for the future again.
“My goal in life is to become a painter because I like to draw a lot. My family and friends like my drawings, and they encourage me to draw more and more. Through drawing, I can express my feelings and thoughts easily.”
As she sits in the classroom and gets her activities done before going back to the container she calls “home”, 10-year-old Neda Hosaini from Afghanistan talked to me about her life journey after arriving in Greece three years ago and shared her dreams for the future.
“I arrived in Greece in 2019. Firstly, I was at the camp of Moria in Lesvos. Afterwards we moved to the refugee camp in Kleidi, and finally to Serres,” she says. “I never went to school back in Afghanistan, and due to the overall security situation we left the country, when I was 7 years old.”
Neda loves her sister, one-year-old Yasra, and really enjoys taking care of her. She lives with her parents in the Refugee camp in Serres (Northern Greece) along with other refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine.
As she speaks about her education in a Greek public school, she says full of excitement:
“I like going to school. I made some Greek friends there and the teachers are nice. I have planted a tree in my school, and one day I will go there to see how it grows.”
“After I finish school, I attend the Non-Formal Education (NFE)* classes which take place in the camp. I enjoy them a lot. The teachers help me to do my homework and also assist me with Greek, English, Math and Science among other subjects” she shares.
Neda and her family had already lost a lot due to the conflict in Afghanistan but they managed to maintain their hope which led them to Greece in an attempt to escape violence and conflict and build a new life from scratch.
Neda wasn’t alone in dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty the conflict back in her country involved both for her and her loved ones. More than 80 students in the camp currently attend the NFE classes, including those from Ukraine who fled their country losing their homes or in some cases even family members…
“My favorite subject is English,” says Neda, “but I like art and drawing more. I would like to give you a drawing of mine” she says with a big smile as she hands over one of her drawings to me.
When I asked her what she likes most in Greece, she mentions:
“I like the sea and the beaches in this country. They are so beautiful – I also like the mountains and the forests.”
As her life returns to normal and her hope for a brighter future starts growing again, Neda says
“I hope we will move out of these container houses and we will find a nice place to stay, so we have a normal life again like everyone else.”
All Children in Education (ACE) – preparing children for formal education
In September 2021, UNICEF in cooperation with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, launched the ‘All Children in Education’ (ACE) programme aiming to enable migrant and refugee children who arrive in Greece to continue their education with equal access to school without any exceptions.
It’s estimated that a total of 31,000 refugee children were in Greece in August 2021, whilst the country has already received refugees/migrants from Ukraine due to the conflict that broke in February 2022.
The programme’s main objective is to ensure that all refugee and migrant children (4-17 years old) arriving in Greece receive the support needed to find their pathway to formal education. Though funding from the EU commission, UNICEF along with its partners (ARSIS, DRC, ELIX, METAdrasi, SolidarityNow) deliver quality Non-Formal Education through 40 Homework and Creative Activities Centers (HCAC) to children residing in Reception and Identification Centers and Close Controlled Access Centres across the country. The programme also delivers special training and resources to teachers whilst providing these children with the psychosocial support needed to recover.
By May 2022, it’s estimated that the ACE programme contributed to supporting and facilitating the smooth integration of 13,196 refugee students to Greek schools during the 2021-2022 school year, seeing their lives gradually getting back to normal.
*The NFE classes are run by UNICEF’s implementing partners and take place in the Reception and Identification Centers where refugee/migrant children reside with their families.