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METAdrasi’s School: refugees and migrants study Greek to pave the way for a new beginning

Journalist: Apostolos Staikos
Operator/Editor: Simon Chabas

It is almost ten o’clock in the morning. Narin, Mohamad and Nashwa enter the classroom, take their seats and open their notebooks. Little by little the rest of the students arrive. Their teacher, Eleftheria, asks them how they spent the weekend, whether they did their homework and if they had any difficulties with it.

Another day at METAdrasi’s classrooms has just started.

I learn Greek because I need to go to the supermarket, move around the city and communicate with people. But the main reason is that I want to help my children,” says Nashwa Alojaily from Syria.

Narin tries to understand differences in the Greek past tenses, while Mohamad gets confused with spelling as some vowels have the same pronunciation. Eleftheria writes down what her students find difficult to understand and invites Nashwa to come on the whiteboard. There are fifteen adults in the classroom, refugees and migrants from Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, Nigeria, Indonesia and other countries.

To date, more than 21,000 students, both adults and minors, have attended METAdrasi’s classes.

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Greek is a beautiful language, and the students try really hard to learn. I can see a glare of success in their eyes as they progress, I can see gratitude. It is deeply moving, knowing that your efforts pay off” says Eleftheria Stroumbouli, METAdrasi’s teacher.

Shortly after its foundation in 2010, METAdrasi started implementing educational programmes for adults. Classes for minors started in 2017 in the Greek mainland and in 2018 in the Aegean islands. Currently, METAdrasi provides educational programmes in Athens, Thessaloniki, Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Samos and Leros.

The summer school programme was launched in 2017, in cooperation with the Municipality of Athens and the Open Schools project, supported by the invaluable assistance of METAdrasi’s volunteers.

During summer, beneficiaries have more time available and children do not go to school. We decided to make the best out of this downtime, so we created a summer school. The response was great, so we continue this effort. We start in mid-June, and we conclude the courses at the end of September” says Nikoleta Dimitrouka, METAdrasi’s Head of Education Department.

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In Athens, the organization runs two educational centers. The courses for adult students are held in Tavros, in co-operation with UNHCR and with the support of the Captain Vassilis and Carmen Constantakopoulos Foundation, Wilstar and the Liu Kuo-Chun Educational Foundation. The Education Center for children operates in Kallithea. As of September 2021, it is part of the programme “All Children in Education”, a UNICEF initiative implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, co-funded by the European Union. As of September 2023, classes for minors have also received support from Wilstar and the Liu Kuo-Chun Educational Foundation.

Adult students have the opportunity to join in-person or online Greek and English language courses. They can also enroll in preparatory classes for Greek language proficiency exams, as well as for the citizenship and long-term residency tests. The previous assessment for the Greek citizenship, held in March 2023, was a great achievement for all participating students of METAdrasi, who successfully passed the exams.

Minor students are also provided with in-person and online Greek and English language lessons, remedial teaching, maths, creative and extracurricular activities.

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In addition, METAdrasi creates educational material adapted to the needs of refugees and migrants, such as the ENTAXEI series that corresponds to the criteria requirements to meet levels A1 to B1.

Greek language courses are important to refugees and migrants, as they play a crucial role in securing employment and facilitating their integration into our society. Knowledge of Greek also improves their everyday life, enabling them to communicate when they want to buy something, ask for information, or to be accommodated in a public service. As for minors, we help them improve their performance in the classroom in formal education. Several children are preparing for the national university entrance exams, that is why they attend our classes,” says Nikoleta Dimitrouka.

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Marina Wassef is one of the children that attend METAdrasi’s courses. The 17-year-old student is in pursuit of a university education and has joined the ancient Greek language and composition classes. But there is another of METAdrasi’s students in her family. Her mother, Mona Toba, a migrant from Egypt who began taking Greek language classes in 2018. Today, she works at the organization’s educational center in Kallithea, providing cleaning services.

At the beginning learning Greek was difficult, but slowly and with the help of the teachers I managed to progress. It is not easy for an adult to learn a new language. But with hard work, everything is possible. We are all friends here, and we help each other. When the teacher comes, she gives me a hug and I know that she is by my side, no matter what. As for the work, I feel like I’m in the comfort of my own home” says Mona.        

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Marina believes that her mother has improved her Greek and whenever Mona needs her help, she immediately steps into the shoes of her teacher for assistance.

My mother speaks a lot better now and feels more confident. She has made significant progress. As for me, METAdrasi’s classes are much better than any other private lessons. The courses I attended during summer have helped me to prepare for the new school year,” says Marina Wassef.

Since 2017 over 6,200 adults and over 11,200 children have attended our educational programmes. METAdrasi remains committed to delivering quality education to refugees and migrants who wish to start a new life in Greece.

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