Migrants triple in state schools

The number of immigrant children enrolled in the Greek state educational system has soared over the past six years, with foreign pupils accounting for up to 90 percent of all class members in certain Athens schools, a Parliamentary committee was told yesterday. According to Giorgos Markou, president of the Institute for Educating Greeks of the Diaspora and Transcultural Education, most state schools in central Athens areas with high immigrant populations are «substandard.» In a presentation, to the parliamentary committee on Greeks of the diaspora, of a survey conducted by his institute, Markou said most Greek parents living in such areas send their children to schools in other parts of town. «This is not because of racism, but they are forced to do so in order to afford their children a better education,» he said. According to Stella Priovolou, a senior Education Ministry official responsible for transcultural education, the number of immigrant children attending Greek schools almost tripled between 1996 and 2002, and now stands at 120,000. The highest concentrations are in areas such as Kypseli, Vathi Square, Amerikis Sq and Koliatsou Sq in Athens, Keratsini, Drapetsona and Nikaia in Piraeus, and Rafina, Koropi, Markopoulo, Oropos and Loutsa in eastern and northern Attica. In some central Athens schools, 73 to 88 percent of classes are children of non-Greek parentage, while in two schools in Aspropyrgos, on the capital’s western outskirts, the figure stands between 86 and 93.4 percent. In October, the Education Ministry said it was considering setting a ceiling on the number of foreign pupils in state schools, to establish a better balance in classes. By 2015, non-Greeks are expected to account for 25 percent of the country’s population.