Education Minister Nikos Filis on Monday brushed aside reactions from local communities in several parts of Greece to refugee children attending public schools, while putting off any debate on planned changes to religious classes in schools until after the end of the academic year.
“The state will not put rights issues up for discussion,” Filis told state broadcaster ERT on Monday.
The government has said that about 22,000 refugee children would be allowed to attend state schools after the beginning of term last month. The program has run into strong opposition from parents in areas near reception facilities, mostly in northern Greece, who have voiced concerns over epidemics and cultural differences.
“Greece does not have internal borders,” Filis said, adding that classes for refugees will start daily at 2 p.m.
Commenting on a spat with the Church of Greece over planned changes to the content and objective of religious education at schools, Filis said that responsibility for the syllabus lies with the Education Ministry. He said that any further deliberation about the manner in which religious classes are taught will take place ahead of the next school year.
Ministry plans to purge the courses of catechism have sparked attacks from Orthodox clerics, spearheaded by Archbishop Ieronymos.
Meanwhile, Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks party, the populist nationalist partner in the SYRIZA-led coalition, have also threatened to block any changes.
In a video released by Golden Dawn on Monday, party leader Nikos Michaloliakos is seen backing the campaign to block refugee children in schools under chants by supporters to “keep foreigners out” of the country. The neofascist party is currently polling in third place.