Ioannis Papachristodoulou
Senior IT Assistant
Duty Station: Athens, Greece

I’m addressing the challenge of how we can provide better opportunities for refugees to learn and use a new language, both in school and in their daily lives.

This is a problem because education is among the main concerns of refugees once they arrive in a host country. For them it is the most important tool to ensure their futures. As of the end of 2014, children below 18 years old constituted 51% of the refugee population. Despite the importance of education and the fact that refugees value education and consider it a high priority, there are many obstacles and challenges that prevent them from accessing education. One of the main challenges is language.  In Greece, refugee and migrant children have access to education under similar conditions as Greek nationals, irrespective of their status. However, lack of introductory language classes or other targeted support services undermine the effective enjoyment of this right.

I want to find a solution to this challenge because language is an important tool from the moment a refugee arrives in a host country, and it’s the stepping stone to proper integration within a host community.

Language barriers can limit refugees’ ability to access information and services, engage with host communities, access livelihood opportunities, and, most importantly, access quality education. Language learning and education have been mentioned repeatedly as being essential for the orientation of refugees to a new country and as important factors that help refugees cope with the many hardships of adjusting to a new country. These hardships include (but aren’t limited to) isolation, xenophobia, and cultural differences. However, resources and planning for their access to education are limited. Therefore, solutions should be explored in order to identify methodologies and best practices in this field.