How to register your kids for Greece's new refugee school program
When the school year starts again in September, Greek schools are planning to offer specialized classes and other help for refugee children and others who don't speak fluent Greek.
Greece has asked refugees and asylum-seekers to register for the new program, called the Zone of Educational Priorities program, by:
- June 7, for kids ages 6 to 12
- June 23, for kids ages 13 to 15
You can send your kids to school whether you are planning to stay in Greece or you are waiting for relocation or family reunification to another country.
Below are some answers to your questions about who can take part in the Zone of Educational Priorities program, how to register for it and what school will be like.
Refugee.Info prepared the answers to these questions with the Greek Ministry of Education and NGOs that work on education issues in Greece.
- How do I know if my children are eligible for school in Greece?
- If I enroll my kids in Greek school, do I have to stay in Greece?
- What kind of classes will my kids attend?
- How will the school assess my kids’ Greek skills?
- How much does school cost?
- Who can help me go to a school and register?
- I need to go to the school by myself, but I don't speak Greek or English!
- Which vaccines do my kids need?
- Where do I find a health center to get my kids vaccinated?
- What happens if I have problems registering my child in school?
- Why did Greece set the June 7 and June 23 deadlines for us to register our kids for school?
- Oh no, I’m reading this after the deadline. What can I do?
- I am 15 or under, and I’m on my own in Greece. How can I enroll in school?
- One of my children is 15 but will turn 16 during the school year. Is he eligible for the Zone of Educational Priorities program?
All children who are pre-registered with the Greek Asylum Service have the legal right to attend Greek public school.
Your children’s eligibility to take part in the new special program for refugees ages 6 to 15 depends on where you are living in Greece.
On the mainland:
- All pre-registered children between 6 and 15 living on the mainland in hotels, apartments or anywhere outside official camps can register for the Zone of Educational Priorities program.
- Children living in official camps will continue to have the access to schooling they have right now, and some will also have access to nearby schools to attend the Zone of Educational Priorities program. (For more information, ask the Refugee Education Coordinator at your camp.)
On the islands:
- All pre-registered children between 6 and 15 living outside camps on the Greek islands can register for the Zone of Educational Priorities program.
- Children living in camps on the Greek islands are legally permitted to attend Greek school, but there will be no special help or special classes for them.
No! You can leave Greece in the middle of the school year. Enrolling your children in school will have no effect on your pending relocation or family reunification case.
When you know the date that you are leaving Greece through family reunification or relocation, let school staff know. They will be able to issue your child a “certificate of attendance” that you can give the school in your new country.
That depends on your children’s Greek language skills.
- Children who don’t speak any Greek, or speak just a little Greek, will attend classes designed to help them improve their Greek language skills. They will also take English, math and science. Your children may also take other subjects like music, IT and sports alongside Greek children, depending on their school.
Children may stay in this class up to one year, but they can also switch in the middle of the year if the school decides they are ready.
- Children who speak better Greek will attend regular classes with Greek students, but they will also receive help from specialized teachers, either in the classroom or outside the classroom.
Children may receive this specialized help for up to three years.
Your children will have to take a test before school starts. The results will determine which class they take.
You do not have to pay for school. However, the government does not provide any money for transportation to school or for school books and equipment.
If you live outside an official site, you will have to finance your children’s transportation to school.
NGOs may be able to help you pay for books and other school expenses. We will let you know as soon as we hear about any assistance programs.
Photo by the Greek Reporter
For people living in official sites on the Greek mainland:
If you live in a camp, a Refugee Education Coordinator will inform you when it’s time to register for school, where your children will go to school, and how they will get there.
They will also ask you for your written consent to let your children go to school on a bus provided by the International Organization for Migration.
The Refugee Education Coordinator will collect all documents required for enrollment and will submit them to the responsible people at your children’s school.
You may also be able to enroll your children in a nearby Zone of Educational Priorities program. Ask your Refugee Education Coordinator for more information. You will probably be able to find a Refugee Education Coordinator in your camp until about mid-June.
For people living outside official sites on the Greek mainland or on the Greek islands:
If you live outside a camp, for example in an apartment or hotel, you will need to go to the nearest school to your home and say you want to register your kids in school for September. You'll need to take a few things with you.
The most important thing that you need to take with you is proof that your children have received the vaccinations required for them to start school.
The school may also ask you to provide:
- Proof of your address. This is to show the school that you live in the area it serves. If you are living in accommodation managed by an NGO, ask them to give you a formal attestation that proves your address. If you are living in a private apartment, you can take an electricity bill as proof of your address.
- A health certificate. You get this document after your child has had a medical exam. This certificate lets the school know of any health problems your children have that may require support. Medical exams are free. You can get them done at the nearest public health center or clinic.
- Your child’s International Protection Applicant Card or residence permit.The school will make a copy.
If you don’t have all the documentation, don't worry. You may be able to provide some of this documentation later, but you should still try to take as much of the required documentation as possible along with you.
School principals are aware that refugees may have difficulties providing all the necessary documents and have been instructed to help you.
If you need help locating the nearest school and communicating with the people there, speak to the NGO staff managing your accommodation or other Greek- or English-speakers you know and see if they can accompany you.
If you're going to a school alone and you don't speak Greek or English, you can take along this letter that we have prepared (in Greek, English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu). It explains to the principal why you are at the school and asks for help registering your children.
Which vaccines do my kids need?
The Ministry of Health lists 10 priority vaccines that children need to go to school. Every year the list of vaccinations is updated.
If your children have AMKAs, take their cards with you to the school. The school may say that the vaccines listed on your AMKA are enough.
If your children don't have AMKAs or the school wants them to get more vaccines, you will need to go to a health center.
When you go to a health center to get your vaccines, the health practitioner will know which vaccines your children need to go to school.
Where do I find a health center to get my kids vaccinated?
If you are living in accommodation organized by an NGO, first contact NGO staff and see if they can help you get your kids vaccinated.
If you are living in private accommodation, you can try the following options:
- The Red Cross Education Health Facility in Panormou (one metro stop from Katehaki) is giving children free vaccinations for school.
To get your kids vaccinated here, you must make an appointment beforehand.Appointments are limited. You also need to take an interpreter with you to your appointment.
If you want to make an appointment, message the Refugee.Info Facebook pageASAP and we will call the Education Health Facility for you to see if there are any available appointments.
Please note that Refugee.Info has no influence over whether appointments are available.
- If you are unable to get an appointment at the Education Health Facility and have an AMKA, you can go to any pediatric health center to get the vaccinations for free.
To make an appointment at a pediatric health center, call 14900.
Calls cost 1 euro, and operators speak only English or Greek. If you can’t speak English or Greek, ask someone who does to make the call for you.
Schools should all be aware of the registration process for refugee kids. They are obliged to write your names and pass them on to the Ministry of Education.
If you have any problems registering your kids in school, you can send an email (in your own language) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These deadlines were set to help schools and The Ministry of Education get a good idea of how many refugee children plan to attend in which locations. This will allow them to establish the special program and hire the teachers needed.
Registering before the deadlines will help increase the chances that your nearest school will offer your children the specialized classes they need to do well in Greek school.
That’s OK! You can still sign up for school throughout the year.
At the moment, only a parent or guardian can enroll a child in school. That means that if you are in Greece alone, you cannot enroll yourself in school. Your guardian can assist you.
Lawmakers are revising this policy now, and we hope we can report changes soon.
One of my children is 15 but will turn 16 during the school year. Is he eligible for the Zone of Educational Priorities program?
Every child 17 and younger has the legal right to attend school in Greece. The principal of your school will decide if your child can stay in the Zone of Educational Priorities program once he turns 16 or if he must join a mainstream Greek class.
Got more questions? Message Refugee.Info on Facebook.
Having trouble registering your kids? Send an email (in your own language) to email@example.com.