One out of five pupils is of foreign origin

«I’d like to thank you. I’d like to say I’m happy that my child is at this school. I don’t know whether he’ll become a star pupil. I want him to become a good person.» So said a woman from Albania, the mother of a 15-year-old boy, at Pangrati’s Seventh Junior High School October 8 ceremony to celebrate European Parents and School Day. Her few words, spoken in halting Greek, touched the hearts of the other parents who were present. Her child is one of a large number of foreign-born pupils in Greek schools; in the prefecture of Athens alone, they number 14,400 out of a total of 63,000, or just over one in five pupils (20.75 percent), according to figures just released by the prefecture. During the 2001-2002 school year, at some schools in the City of Athens, foreign-born pupils accounted for 75 percent of the total number of pupils. The highest percentages were to be found in the inner-city districts of Athens, such as Kypseli and Kato Patissia (almost 33 percent), and Pangrati and Neos Cosmos (23 percent). As prefecture health and welfare adviser Ira Valsamaki-Ralli told Kathimerini, the number of foreign-born pupils, the majority of whom are of Albanian origin, has risen this year. The proportion of foreign-born pupils decreases in higher classes, as these children are absorbed into the labor market. At nursery schools in Athens, foreign-born children represent more than 23 percent of the total enrollment and at primary schools, 29.4 percent. The number falls to 26.45 percent in junior high school, 9.7 percent in general senior high school and 15.1 percent in the technical high schools, suggesting that many pupils leave school to seek work. «The strong presence of foreign-born pupils in the state schools of Athens is something that requires direct, careful handling,» says Valsamaki-Ralli. «The effectiveness of the Education Ministry’s policy in this connection must be evaluated and given high priority.»