Sirin, 9 years old: inspired by school to become a teacher

After-school support helps unlock opportunities for refugee and migrant children in Greece

Olga Siokou-Siova
A schoolgirl sits at a desk in a classroom
23 May 2019

Nine-year-old Sirin arrived in Greece nearly two years ago from Iraq with her parents and three siblings. After spending a year relocating within the country, her family settled in Thessaloniki where Sirin is now in fourth grade at a Greek elementary school.

During their first year in the country, Sirin and her family stayed in two different open accommodation sites and two apartments. Sirin had to change four schools before eventually moving to her current neighborhood and enrolling in her current school.

One of Sirin’s biggest supporters is her father who made sure his daughter was attending school or non-formal education classes throughout their journey. He proudly brings her to the Blue Refugee Centre every day.

Sirin is fluent in Greek after only a year in school. Her secret? “You need to study a bit if you want to learn how to read and write, but you won’t be able to learn how to speak if you don’t have friends that help you”. Sirin met her best friend, Dimitra, the first day of school. They now sit next to each-other and Dimitra makes sure she helps Sirin during class if there is something she doesn’t fully understand.

“I am a very good student because I want to learn. Other kids in my class are a bit better than me in some subjects but I don’t mind. I know it is easier for them. Next year I will be even better.”

A schoolgirl sits at a desk with her teacher looking at a text book
Sirin, 9, attending one of the after-school support sessions at the Blue Refugee Center in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Sirin’s favorite subjects are English and Gymnastics. “During the break I like to play football and volleyball with my friend Dimitra and the rest of my classmates. I like being outdoors a lot!”

Sirin goes to school until 1pm every day and after a short lunch break she goes straight to the Blue Refugee Centre (BRC) where she attends language classes and receives homework support. BRC is managed by UNICEF’s partner SolidaryNow and is funded by the European Commission.

Sirin’s favorite teacher at the BRC is Kiki. Kiki has been helping Sirin with her school homework since her first day in the centre. “Sirin’s progress is amazing. When she came in she barely spoke any Greek and within a few months she managed to not only communicate fluently but excel in her class as well.”

Kiki has been working with refugee and migrant children for the past two years and she’s constantly moved and inspired by her students’ progress and achievements. “Most of the children see the centre as a second home and us as one big family.”

A schoolgirl hugs her teacher sitting at a desk in a classroom
Sirin, 9, together with Kiki – her teacher at the after-school support sessions provided at the Blue Refugee in Thessaloniki, Greece.

More than 150 students attend the centre every week. In addition to the non-formal education services, it also includes a Child Friendly Space and a Mother Baby corner where mothers and young children can receive counseling and psychosocial support and participate in social and recreational activities and events.

Sirin’s message to other refugee and migrant children is clear -  “You shouldn’t say you don’t want to go to school because you think you are not as good as other children. You might be a bit behind, but you made it this far. You will try a bit harder and you will become better every day.”

Sirin wants to become a teacher when she grows up and she seems well on her way.