Some 1,500 refugee children started lessons at public schools Monday under a program to educate migrant youngsters, an initiative that has been marred by isolated protests.
Classes were held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at 30 schools across Greece. The Greek chapter of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) commissioned 12 buses to transport the children from reception centers to local schools. Officials gave them a tour of the facilities, introduced them to their teachers and supplied them with bookbags and textbooks.
The program, which was launched Monday in the Attica, Central Macedonia and Epirus regions, will be gradually expanded, with some 22,000 refugee children being inducted into classes at 800 schools nationwide.
A group of parents in the neighborhood of Akadimia Platonos, in western Athens, protested the launch of the program and demanded assurances from the Education Ministry that the 31 refugee children who were introduced to the local school had been vaccinated and are healthy.
Some of the parents were seen scuffling with members of the non-governmental organization that escorted the children after the former tried to block the entrance to the building. The incident ended following an intervention by the general secretary of the Education Ministry, Yiannis Pantis, who stressed that no child will be allowed to join the program without prior vaccination.
“No child will step out of the reception centers if they are not vaccinated. Reactions are unjustified,” he said.
Pantis also rebuffed reports that parents in the Aegean island of Lesvos had padlocked the gate of a school in the island’s capital, Mytilini, to prevent refugee children from attending the program. He said the incident had been “staged.”
“That particular school has not even been inducted into the program,” he said.