Access to education

Cyprus

Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 30/11/20

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The Refugee Law provides that all asylum seeking children have access to primary and secondary education under the same conditions that apply to Cypriot citizens, immediately after applying for asylum and no later than three months from the date of submission.[1] In practice, the vast majority of children access public education. However, as there is no systematic monitoring of children’s registration at school, there have been cases of children remaining out of the education system for more than three months, mainly due to the difficulties that families face in accessing certain schools, the lack of information / timely arrangements, limited schools’ capacity at a given period to accommodate additional students etc. There is also a lack of official data on dropout rates regarding asylum-seeking children.

 

Children residing in the reception centre are attending regular schools in the community. Article 9H(1) of the Refugee Law allows for education arrangements to be provided in the reception centre and such arrangements took place for high school students from the beginning of 2017 until the end of the school year in June 2017. This practice was implemented following an incident between students in a local school where residents of Kofinou Centre attend. However, this practice has not been repeated since and all children attend schools in the community.

 

The right of enrolled students to attend secondary education is not affected by reaching the age of 18.[2] However, almost all new students over 18 years old who wish to enrol for the first time in secondary education, are denied access to free public schools by the Ministry of Education. Cyprus Refugee Council interventions for specific cases have resulted in enrolment but further monitoring is required.

 

The age of students and their previous academic level is taken into consideration when deciding the grade where they will be registered. Classes at public schools are taught in Greek. Should they wish to attend a private school (usually for reasons of attending courses in English) it is possible at their own cost. The provisions for children asylum seekers are the same as for every non-Greek speaking student. In order to deal with the language barrier, the Ministry of Education has developed transitional classes for non-Greek speakers in the first three years of secondary education (gymnasium) where 18 hours of Greek per week are provided. In the last three years of secondary education (lyceum), four extra hours of Greek per week will be provided. Classes take place in appointed public schools in each district. With the exception of Greek classes which are tailored to the needs of non-Greek speakers, asylum-seeking students attend mainstream classes at all other times.

 

In the context of primary education, two additional books for learning Greek as a second language were disseminated by the Ministry of Education in 2019 to all enrolled children with a migration background and additional hours of Greek language learning were arranged at schools where the number of non-Greek speaking children was deemed particularly high.

 

Students are expected to succeed in the final exams in order to proceed to the next grade. Students at the age of 15 and above may also attend evening Greek classes offered by the Ministry of Education in the community through life-learning schemes (Adult Education Centres and State Institutes of Further Education) or other EU-funded arrangements.

 

Linguistic and cultural barriers are still significant obstacles for young students, especially those entering secondary education. In 2018, in an effort to provide options for young students, UNHCR KASA, a private educational organisation, concluded a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly work in the protection of refugee children in the Republic of Cyprus by ensuring them access to quality learning, education, and skill-building opportunities.[3] Under this agreement, KASA, offered places to refugees and asylum seekers who wish to obtain a high school diploma. Interested individuals of 16 years or above with a good command of English are eligible to apply and, if selected – following a test and interview – attend the programme, the duration of which is a minimum three years of study and leads to a recognised high school diploma. The program continues in 2019.

 

The provisions of the Refugee Law regarding the identification and addressing of special reception needs are not implemented yet, as such there is no preliminary monitoring or assessment of the vulnerability of children. Special needs of students are usually evaluated and taken into consideration by the Ministry of Education upon registration into schools, and sometimes through the intervention of NGOs. Depending on the nature and the seriousness of the disability, different arrangements are offered. The available schemes by the Ministry of Education for students with special needs are: placement in a regular class and provision of additional aid; placement in a special unit which operates within the regular school; placement in a special school (for more severe cases); placement in alternatives to school settings.

 

Adequately assessing the needs of children is time-consuming. In addition, there is often the need to receive important treatments (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy) outside of the school context (in public hospital or privately). There are often delays and / or financial constraints in accessing these services.

 

Children entering the shelters at a time when school arrangements, within the typical public education system, are not able to accommodate them or when children are about to become adults, are referred to attend evening classes which include Greek, English or French language, mathematics and computer studies, at the State Institutes of Further Education. Those Institutes operate under the Ministry of Education, mainly as lifelong learning institutions.

 

 


[1] Article 9H(1) and (3)(a) Refugee Law.

[2] Article 9H(2) Refugee Law.

[3]UNHCR, ‘UNHCR and the KASA High School join forces for refugee education’, 14 March 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2VSw6PD.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation