August 2020: Back to School?

August library update:

August is a quiet time in Athens. It’s the holiday month for a lot of working people – the city streets empty out as people head for cooler spots in the islands and the countryside to take a break or work in the tourist industry. The ECHO team followed suit, taking one week off for sessions and another week to put our heads together and come up with some designs for the new library van. 

COVID-19 is on the rise again in Greece, and regional lockdown measures are being introduced where it spikes. So we’re prepared for a second lockdown if and when it comes – but in the meantime we’ve continued our usual sessions, speeding around the south of the Mainland bringing books, language learning resources to those who need them.

We’re continuing our collaboration with the lovely Kids Klub who’ve been developing our children’s library sessions – read on to hear more about their sessions.

Back to school?

As the summer comes to an end, there are lots of questions about what ‘back to school’ is going to look like for a lot of the world. For the children that use the ECHO library, this has been an uncertain question for much longer. 

There are currently about 42,500 asylum seeking children living in Greece, with 11,000 of them living in camps. Whilst the Ministry of Education here aims to get all children into school regardless of paper-status, its 2019 report found that less than 50% of children from refugee families were regularly attending school. 

Why is this? It seems like there are often long delays in finding schools to enroll children in. The information given to parents isn’t always accurate or accessible, and sometimes once children are enrolled it’s still difficult to attend. Teenagers in Malakasa camp told members of the ECHO team last year that they weren’t currently in the school they’d been enrolled in because the school bus that was their only form of transport had stopped coming. 

But there’s another reason, too – sometimes school is just too difficult to get used to. Often, the children we work with have not been in education for a number of years, or have actually never been enrolled in school before. War, precarity and movement make formal school attendance tough. In the so-called ‘island hotspots’ where many refugees must live upon arrival in Greece there is close to zero school enrollment. 

That’s why in our sessions in camps, we try to make learning accessible and fun, and foster the soft-skills you need to get by in a formal school environment. That means doing stuff like listening to one person talking; working independently; working together as a group; getting used to rules and routine; and sharing the colouring pencils! We also try to bring some joy into the kids’ week through play and creative exercises: without access to resources or education, and cut off from society in remote camps, it’s easy to get under-stimulated and frustrated. We play group games, sing songs, stretch, draw, paint, use (homemade!) play-doh – fun stuff.

You can find Kids’ Klub work on ECHO’s social media, and by following Kids Klub on facebook @kidsklubathens

Practicing the alphabet with a whiteboardPracticing the alphabet with a whiteboard

Practicing the alphabet with a whiteboard

By Keira Dignan and Kids Klub

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