December 17, 2019

Theirworld expands education support for refugee children on Greek islands

Refugee children are happy to be getting an education at the Tapuat Centre near the Moria camp on Lesvos

Photo credit: UNICEF

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Hundreds more vulnerable children living in overcrowded centres will be helped by a new project announced as the first Global Refugee Forum begins.

Theirworld is to expand its education support on the Greek Aegean Islands to include hundreds more vulnerable refugee children living in terrible conditions.

It is today announcing a new centre near the notorious and overcrowded Moria camp on Lesvos. This is a new action on top of the broader Theirworld project with Education Cannot Wait - the global fund for education in emergencies - that is already allowing partner organisations to send 5,500 girls and boys to school on the islands.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the conditions these young people are living in and the relative lack of support from the international community,” said Theirworld President Justin van Fleet.

“We have found ourselves in a very unique position to deliver immediate education support to refugees through our partnerships and unlock bigger change for thousands more. This new partnership will allow us to support the expansion of a centre doing amazing work near the Moria camp.”

More than 37,000 migrants - 45% of them children - are crammed into centres on the islands with few facilities and squalid conditions. The Moria camp was created to house about 3,000 people but is now home to 15,000.

Following a recent visit to Lesvos, Theirworld’s new support to the Tapuat Centre near the Moria camp will allow it to refurbish a building next door and serve more children. The centre will provide education to 420 children and early childhood education to another 60.

"Education for a child is the first and most fundamental step to integration and normalcy" says UNICEF's country co-ordinator for refugees in Greece

Photo credit: UNICEF

Theirworld’s announcement comes as the first Global Refugee Forum begins today in Switzerland. Theirworld’s work on the Greek Aegean Islands is in collaboration with Education Cannot Wait and made possible thanks to the support of the Nationale Postcode Loterij

As well as the new support, Theirworld is also working with the Greek government, United Nations agencies UNHCR and UNICEF, local NGOs and partners to develop an education delivery plan for refugee children in Greece, which will be released in early 2020. 

"Education for a child is the first and most fundamental step to integration and normalcy,” said Lucio Melandri, UNICEF’s Country Coordinator for Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece.

“Being able to expand our intervention in Lesvos with support from Theirworld to cover double the population we have been able to support so far is of vital importance for many vulnerable children and families living in Moria Reception and Identification Centre."

Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif said: “Theirworld’s second contribution is much needed to meet the emergency needs for refugees on the Greek Aegean Islands. 

“These girls and boys have endured brutal armed conflicts and a harrowing journey across the sea. They are out of school in increasingly overcrowded reception centers. The message of Theirworld’s top-up funding is that their right to education cannot be denied nor delayed any further. Indeed, their education cannot wait.”

Education centres on Lesvos are informal - concentrating on teaching Greek and providing psychosocial support to traumatised children

Photo credit: UNICEF

Less than 15% of migrant children on the islands receive any education. The Theirworld project is increasing that capacity very quickly and the aim is to scale up to reach more than 80% of refugees in the new year.

Urgent action is required because the number of migrants arriving on the Greek Aegean Islands from neighbouring Turkey has increased again in recent months. Appalling conditions in the reception centres have been condemned by aid agencies.

Greece has said it will shut down the centres - including the camp at Moria - and replace them with closed facilities. The government wants to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year and expects the new facilities to be ready by July 2020. 

Theirworld’s support for the Tapuat Centre on Lesvos will allow a building to be rehabilitated and fill a funding gap so that two school shifts can be operated each day throughout 2020.

Education centres on the island are informal. They concentrate on teaching the Greek language and providing psychosocial support to traumatised children, which helps them to integrate when they eventually go into schools on the mainland.

“The Tapuat centre is an oasis for children and women living in the dreadful conditions in Moria camp,” said Vasiliki Andreadelli, President of the Lesvos NGO Iliaktida AMKE. “By coming to the centre for a few hours a day, they are able to feel relaxed, keep sanity and build resilience. The expansion of the centre thanks to the Theirworld contribution is crucial and we are deeply grateful.”

Samira, a 15-year-old from Afghanistan, said: “We are very happy at this centre. We study English and Greek. We need more time to stay and study English more.” Another Afghan migrant, nine-year-old Osman, said: “I want to become a doctor. The psychosocial support class is very good for confidence-building.”

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