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Preparatory classes to become compulsory in order to integrate the children of immigrants

02 March 2010 / 11:03:34  GRReporter
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Children of immigrants need to go through the preparatory classes to learn Greek, and their parents must take Greek lessons in the same schools, said the Principal of 132th Athenian School Stella Protonotariou. Mrs. Protonotariou spoke at a press conference on the occasion of the token strike of immigrants known as "24 hours without us," noting the difficulties in the integration of immigrant children and making proposals for action by the Ministry of Education.

"Everybody knows that our society is multicultural. Evidence for this is that there are schools where 90 percent of children are foreigners, but in terms of education and teaching methods, very few things have changed in recent years," said Mrs. Protonotariou. 

According to the general assessment, which the principal of 132th school expressed, schools operate on the principle of assimilation, not using constructive knowledge of the mother tongue and culture of children who are not from Greece. The moves of the Ministry of Education in this direction for the integration of immigrant children is that schools create an intercultural and preparatory classes in Greek, which "unfortunately do not exist either because of lack of staff or because of lack of desire to organize them.” 

In primary schools, many children are often absent, either because they are forced to work or help their parents to take care for their younger brothers and sisters, and often they happen to be ashamed of their language and origin as a result of which they isolate themselves. All this leads to their gradual drop out of classes notes Mrs. Protonotariou, and continues her thought that "a mistake, which the management of schools often does is to put new coming children in lower grades than their age. According to a bibliography that exists on this issue, this works very negatively on the psyche of children and they feel in a lower position than the others from the very beginning.”

Moreover, there are still principles who avoid admitting immigrant children in their schools by “closing their eyes” for the changes that have occurred in Greece and insisting on the "purity" of the schools from foreigners. 

Discouraging fact for children is that many of them do not know the language at first, but they are still required to progress with the material. 

"In turn, parents of Greek children begin to fear for the advancement of their own children. On the other hand, teachers do not have the required methodology to deal with the difficulties and the situation," noted some of the problems of intercultural education in the Greek Public Schools Mrs. Protonotariou. 

The example of 132th school, which has been repeatedly awarded by the Ministry of Education, is to accurately describe the difficulties it has been facing since 2000. In order to deal with them, teachers, parents and children organize many activities. During those activities they use the culture of all children in the school in a constructive way, they organize extracurricular classes in Albanian and Arabic languages, for children from those nations, and for parents the school organizes courses in Greek, which are visited by a total of 50 people. "These programs have been running for five years and they give very good results - the outflow of students from schools stops because children are successfully integrated into the classes, there is no xenophobia among students, and parents get to know each other and the teachers better," said Principal Protonotariou. For the best results the school is awarded by the Ministry of Education, but its principal was later fired because of her initiative. 

The proposals of Mrs. Protonotariou for intervention of the Ministry in trans-cultural training are associated with the creation of a program for learning Greek by the parents, which should be implemented by the schools themselves, and the implementation of extracurricular activities in the mother tongue of immigrant children. She also stressed on the need for implementation of preparatory classes in Greek for children of immigrants, which are a law, but for one reason or another are not practiced. 

Mrs. Protonotariou became known in Greece because she was dismissed due to her initiatives in 132th school for overcoming difficulties during the training of both immigrant children and Greek children. A few days ago the Greek press announced that the Ministry of Education has appointed back Principal Mrs. Protonotariou. 

One of the reasons why Mrs. Protonotariou was dismissed from her position in 2007 was because she replaced the Morning Prayer in school "Our Father" with the rhyme by the recognized Greek poet Yannis Ritsos "Morning Star": 

"Dear God, we are good. 
Do so, Dear God, that all children have a stream of milk, many stars, many songs. 
Do so, Dear God, that all are well 
So that we are not ashamed of our joy." 

"In modern Greek schools - now multicultural, children with different religions are taught and they are required to attend the Morning Prayer... But the children want to be part of the group and want to participate in the first general occupation with which the school activities start. They do not want to be different and to feel isolated, to be looked at weird, to be commented on, to be isolated," says Mrs. Protonotariou in an interview for Eleftherotypia newspaper. 

Tags: Greece Education system Immigrants Integration
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