Greece will hire hundreds of extra teachers to help thousands of migrant children join its public schools in the autumn, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday.
“The inclusion of all refugee children in the public school system will begin in September,” Tsipras said in a televised address.
“Around 800 backup teachers will be hired to meet the additional needs” of the new academic year, he said.
Authorities have not given precise figures on how many refugee and migrant children are expected to enroll.
But out of over 57,000 people – mainly from Syria – trapped in Greece by the closure of borders further north before spring, around a third are estimated to be minors.
At a meeting with Education Minister Nikos Filis on Wednesday, Athens Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis put the number of eligible minors at 22,000.
Filis said his services were “prepared to enroll thousands of refugee children.”
The children will be taught Greek and another language of their choice, he said. Another government source said mathematics will also be on the curriculum.
“This is an introductory year,” the source said.
Filis noted that refugee and migrant children will initially be schooled separately as the integration process will take time.
“Initially (separate) reception classes will be set up at many schools, and gradually, it will be possible to fully integrate the children,” Filis said.
“We will try to soon have Greek and refugee children together in schools,” he said.
Children too distant from cities will be schooled inside their migrant camps, the minister said.
According to the NGO Save the Children, which has warned of the risk of a lost generation, the refugee children stuck in camps in Greece on average have not been in school for a year and a half.
And more than a fifth of school-age children have never set foot in a classroom.
The refugee population in Greece is very mixed and still very unsettled, and the country's education system is underfunded after six years of budget austerity.