Classmates attend LEDU on the island of Leros. Around 150 refugee children of various nationalities attend the school, learning English, Greek, Math and Arts as well as classes to enhance the children’s skills in their native languages. © UNHCR / Christos Tolis

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization Save the Children, inaugurated on Thursday, February 16, an educational space for refugee and migrant children on Leros island (Lepida area).

The educational space, “LEDU”, aims to enhance the skills of refugee students, aged 6-18 years old, in order to obtain again a basic connection to the educational process, to integrate smoothly into the official national education system, under the Greek Ministry of Education programs, and continue their education, without interruption.

Opening the event, UNHCR’s Representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc said: “Education is a basic right. UNHCR promotes full access to education for every child. For those displaced by war and human rights violations, entering the classroom restores hope and dignity. Refugee children deserve to be in school with their peers, instead of continuing to lose out on their childhood. Non-formal education is a start and allows to prepare for entering the formal education system be it in another European member State, in Greece or hopefully when conditions permit in their countries of origin. It also empowers them to participate in community life and is an indispensable tool for integration.”

Andreas Ring, Save the Children Humanitarian representative for Greece said: “At Save the Children we are proud to inaugurate today this informal education structure in the remote island of Leros. With LEDU we enhance the learning process of students and help them integrate into the education system after a long and painful time outside the classroom. At the same time we are building bridges of understanding, cooperation, mutual respect and acceptance among the local community and children – refugees and migrants.”

“LEDU” space was entirely renovated and shaped to accommodate educational activities. It has the capacity to teach about 80 students per day, in three classrooms (one is equipped and functions as a computer room) and an extra room for various activities.  Courses include Greek, English, mathematics, geography, computer and art, offered by Greek certified teachers and qualified staff of Save the Children. Teachers include also members of the refugee community. Currently, there are 170 students enrolled in “LEDU”, who participate in the educational program alternately every other day. The aim is to host soon local Greek students as well, who will have the opportunity to attend language and vocational training courses.

Homa, a 16-year-old girl from Afghanistan, who attends classes in LEDU, says: “Education is important for our life. Since I was a child I really wanted to go to school but in Afghanistan girls are not going to school. I am sad because I couldn’t go to school and have friends like other children. School is important for everyone. We are all the same, boys and girls are the same, we should have the same rights, we are humans. Here I feel I have my rights, I feel free and stronger. I want to say to all refugee children that they have to be strong, we see good and bad things in our lives but we have to be strong because the bad days are going to pass and one day we will be in a better situation”.

The non-formal educational activities in “LEDU” offer vital and systematic support, so that students are eventually able to follow the official curriculum.  Particular difficulty lies in the cases of students who have remained outside the education system, for a year and a half on average, while there are often cases of children who have never benefitted from any sort of formal education. There is a risk of losing an entire generation of children, being left without an education, which will greatly complicate their subsequent integration in their countries of residence.

The renovation and activities of “LEDU” are funded by the European Union (DG Home) and UNHCR. The centre is operated by Save the Children.

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