By Anu Vehmaa
School and students are the same everywhere. In the educational centers where we organize our workshops, there are students of all ages, from 6 year-olds to teenagers. Despite their young age, they have gone through a lot. They have been forced to leave their homes and they are now living in a foreign country where they can’t understand the language. School brings stability and structure to their new lives in Greece. Our collaborators Elix and Finn Church Aid are running educational centers, which offer after-school education for all age groups, even for the 16-17 year-olds who do not go to Greek schools.
I was able to join classes for the youngest ones and for the teenagers. The small kids were adorable but the noise in the classroom was deafening. Like in every class, there were the small girls who wanted to sit by the teacher and to copy all the words and gestures that the she was doing. There was the class clown, who did not want to participate in teaching but wanted to make the classmates laugh instead. I could only admire the teacher’s ability to stay calm and be present. She even managed to teach me a couple of Greek words: kefáli (head) and stóma (mouth).
There was a bigger variance among the teenagers. Some of the students seem to be participating more and most of them did not speak very much English. Like in any other class full of teenagers, there was the group of boys who were not interested and who were testing their limits by answering a phone in the middle of the class and so on. Despite this, it is good that they are attending and not skipping the classes. In addition to the teachers, there were two interpreters in the classroom. There were five languages in total spoken and most of them at the same time!
The students made it clear that they want to learn. The topic of the day was celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The students expressed that they did not see racism as a big concern in their life, however some of them felt that they were not getting the education that they wanted because they are refugees. They are dreaming about becoming engineers or doctors and it frustrated them that instead of learning mathematics or physics, they had to discuss about their experiences and feelings on discrimination. Similar to many teenagers, they are in a hurry to start their own lives, gain independence, and to get a good job. Hopefully they will find our workshops interesting and useful.