Mobile School’s vision
Mobile School’s main objective is empowering street-connected children by offering educational activities which help them to rebuild their self-esteem and unlock their talents. As this requires a regular presence and positive interaction between the child and the street educator, we collaborate with local organisations, that guarantee continuous work with the mobile school. We invest in long-term partnerships to realise sustainable impact on children and youth worldwide.
Although we have experience with street-connected children migrating to different cities in Tanzania and Kenya and internally displaced populations in Colombia, the work with refugees is relatively new for Mobile School and requires a slightly different approach.
Because children on the move stay in one place for shorter periods than other children we meet in the streets, the process started by street educators is shorter and other needs have to be addressed.
The focus of the interventions is, therefore, on stress relief and on offering a positive educational environment where children can express their emotions, learn, play together and feel like a child again. Even if it is only for a short moment on their journey.
Our work with refugees in Greece
As Central European countries decided to close their borders, more and more refugees have arrived in Greece’s biggest cities: Athens, Patras and Thessaloniki. In 2015, we set up a new Mobile School project in Athens, with partner organisation ARSIS. They use the mobile school to work with different Roma communities and with relocated refugees and migrants in urban areas.
In 2016, another Greek mobile school was set up in Patras, with partner PRAKSIS. Since the border is closed, many refugees go to the port city of Patras to try to continue their journey by hiding in trucks and boats leaving the city every day, hoping to get to Italy. While waiting, they live in very harsh circumstances in abandoned factories, often chased by the police, looking for support from PRAKSIS’ lawyers and social workers. In the meantime, Greek authorities are trying to evacuate the Greek islands and move refugees to camps up north, where conditions are more humane.
In Thessaloniki, camps have been built at different isolated places around the city. Local partners ARSIS and PRAKSIS go there with the mobile school, offering educational and recreational activities. Many refugee children don’t go to school. On the one hand, refugees themselves have lost their trust in society and hesitate to subscribe. On the other hand, rural schools are not prepared to integrate this many children from different backgrounds. Overall, there is too much work for one mobile school in Thessaloniki. Therefore, we have decided to implement a second school this year to open up more possibilities and scale the impact in the region. This will be the 5th mobile school in Greece, of which four work with refugees.
Our work with refugees in Germany
Further north, there is another Mobile School partner who has a lot of expertise working with refugees. The mobile school team of Jugendamt Stadt Düsseldorf started working with refugees in 2015. They take the mobile school out to the Refugee House in the Bruchstrasse, home to both newly arrived refugees and to immigrants that have lived there for years, sometimes for two or more generations. The challenge for the team was to dissolve the fear of contact between both groups. Since the start of their work, they have seen many significant positive changes in the social behaviour of all residents and in the relationships between them.
What makes the work challenging both in Germany and in Greece are the strict asylum regulations and tense bureaucratic situations that keep families in a constant state of uncertainty and make it hard for children to cope with their situation. Children often find comfort and stress relief at the mobile school, which makes this work extremely important.
The work of Mobile School with refugees is still at an early stage, with 116 mobile school interventions last year in Germany and Greece with approximately 16 children being reached during every activity.
Since the demand for mobile schools in Europe is increasing, we decided to organise a conference in Navarra, Spain with street educators from our European partner organisations to address the challenges they face during the work with refugees at the mobile school. The lessons learned during this European conference, and the expansion of the Mobile School network in Greece, will help us to extend our reach and increase our impact on refugees in Europe.