Refugee Education Programme at KASA High school gives hope to young refugees

New Refugee Education Programme gives hope to young refugees in Cyprus
© UNHCR Cyprus

Ελληνικά

Fifteen young asylum-seekers, aged between 16-18 years old, are eagerly waiting for their Wednesday afternoon Greek lesson to start. It’s already the second week they are attending classes at KASA High School that has recently launched a Refugee Education Programme in the context of an agreement signed between UNHCR and the KASA High school last March.

“We are very thankful that this opportunity is given to us. Education is key to success. With education you can achieve anything you want to achieve in life,” says Fatima*, a young woman from The Gambia who fled to Cyprus as an unaccompanied child a couple of years ago. Being apart from her family makes her feel empty and lonely at times, but the new education programme has given her a new sense of direction and purpose. “I want to finish school and then go to the university to study international relations and try to contribute in changing the world,” she says to UNHCR.

Also from The Gambia, Baba* had fled his country when he was 17 and arrived in Cyprus alone and education has always been his top priority. Likewise, Baba feels blessed for this opportunity. “It’s like a dream come true. This will enable us to take a step in building our lives.”

Baba is working in parallel to his studies but he has set his priorities straight: “School is my life. I’m working to be able to cover my needs, but education remains my priority. I’ll do my best and do what is expected from me and attend the classes and successfully complete this programme. As refugees we also want to give back to the countries that have welcomed us. Education is the only way for us to be responsible and good citizens and be able to work and have a normal life. I hope that more opportunities both in Cyprus and around the world are created for other refugees to go to school.”

Young refugees in Cyprus given new hope through education and language learning programme. ©UNHCR Cyprus

The students participating in the programme are from diverse ethnic and educational backgrounds; many are from African countries and some are from Europe. They are all united by a strong desire and drive to be educated. Hungry for learning, they have already started making plans for university education. Fatima plans to study international relations, others computer science, medicine and business.

The Refugee Education Programme is of three years duration and a school leaving certificate, accredited by the Ministry of Education and Culture, will be granted to those who successfully complete it. At the moment, the students attend classes of Greek as a second language, English, German, History, Mathematics and Marketing. More subjects, such as Information and Communication Technology, Civic Orientation, Psychology and Anthropology are expected to be added in the coming weeks.

Ms Evi Kalatha who teaches Greek in the Refugee Education Programme is inspired by the students’ drive: “They are so eager to learn the Greek language, and they are diligent students. Language is an essential tool to the integration of refugees in their new countries and this is something that they all seem to acknowledge.”

Educational needs may vary but this is not a source of concern for their teacher: “The classroom is not homogeneous, but I see this as a challenge, not as a problem. Besides, diversity is a source of wealth and they can all learn with each other and from each other.”

Some students may not have school bags, books or calculators, but these are needs that are expected to be met soon. “These are a few minor issues that remain to be addressed. We are hopeful that we will have what’s needed soon so as not to stay behind,” says Baba.

Above all, they’re grateful to be safe, able to study and pursue their dreams.

*names changed for protection reasons