Multicultural education shines at Attica school

We are trying to understand through the eyes of the children the experiences they have gone through. Often children come with fear in their eyes as they recall their hardships in their war-torn countries and their flight as refugees. These experiences, as related by Magda Veltsista, principal of the Second Junior High School of Multicultural Education in Hellenikon, and by Aikaterini Papayianni, principal of the Primary School of Multicultural Education in Alsoupolis, moved the audience of a seminar last Tuesday on incorporating immigrants into education. Thirty-six different languages are heard during breaks. We have students from as many countries. Children, though, are children. They don’t pay attention to wars and national animosities. I remember as the operations were under way in Kosovo that children from Albania and Serbia quarreled about the victories of Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK (Greek football clubs), and paid no attention to developments in their countries, remarked Veltsista in an interview with Kathimerini. Of course, I have to confess that the students from Russia had taken under their protection all those children that had come from Serbia, she added with a smile. Difference brings about interaction, renewal and joy. Our school is a happy school, Papayianni said. Teachers at multicultural education schools, attended by Greek students as well as by children of repatriated Greeks and foreigners, at times play a dual role, that of educator and parent. We have an interest in the children of immigrants getting all the necessary vaccinations, complying with the rules of hygiene and visiting the doctor when they get sick, Veltsista said, stressing that these children face a number of problems as they live only with working mothers, or in children’s homes. The first thing that I can do for a frightened child is to take it in my arms. To become mother and teacher, Veltsista declared, and added that the most important educational means for the smooth incorporation of a child into the education system and society was love. The director of the Institute of Multicultural Development in Holland, A. Abutaleb, agreed with this view, saying that in order for (a child) to give his hand, we must first offer ours, adding, The aim is for society to accept difference. The most important thing for us is to cooperate on this with Greek parents, whose children come to our school, Papayianni said. She underlined that the ease of a child’s incorporation into the educational system is key to its progress in society at large. Speakers at the two-day seminar, which ended on Tuesday, reiterated this view and declared that this was the major wager to be won by modern multicultural societies such as Greece.

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