Refugee and migrant children in Greece began attending school Monday despite protests from some Greek parents.
Police in the village of Profitis, 35 kilometers from Athens, formed a corridor to enable 40 puzzled-looking children from Syria and Afghanistan to enter the school.
Earlier in the day, about 20 people padlocked the gate to the school, but the children were escorted in through another entrance.
While some parents have protested the decision to allow the children into public schools, most of the response has been positive.
The pilot program by the Greek government, paid for by European Union funds and supported by aid agencies, foresees about 1,500 children attending 20 schools for four hours every day in the afternoon — after regular classes by Greek children end.
Lessons would include Greek, English — or another second language of the family’s choice — mathematics, art, gym and computer programming, education ministry officials said.
The migrant children would be integrated into Greek children’s classrooms when they learned the Greek language and could comfortably follow lessons.
“The children should not be ghettoized in our country, but instead the conditions should be created so that they can play, grow up and be educated with Greek children as long as they remain in Greece,” Education Minister Nikos Filis told a news conference outlining the program last week.
More than 60,000 refugees and migrants are in Greece after several European states further north shut their borders earlier this year.