Teaching refugee and Greek youth to code and collaborate

Digital and tech workshops in Greece by Finn Church Aid support integration and expand the horizons of young people by offering skills that are vital in today’s digital world. After a successful two-month pilot in Athens, the plan is to expand to other locations in Greece if suitable partners jump onboard.

Since May 2017, a group of 40 young girls and boys from Greek and refugee communities have been learning digital and tech skills such as programming, robotics and 3D printing in Athens. The purpose of these workshops is to offer youth from different backgrounds an inspiring space to meet and learn together. Mixed groups allow newcomers and Greek to get to know each other, which supports integration.

Over 120 young people applied for the pilot workshops that Finn Church Aid (FCA) is organizing together with Greek NGO Open Technologies Alliance. Selected participants are aged 15 to 18. Half are newcomers from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Romania. The other half are Greek. No previous knowledge in computing sciences was required, only basic English language skills and a desire to learn.

“The large number of applications shows that there is a huge demand for this kind of training. We want to reach young people who do not have other opportunities to learn digital skills and who can benefit greatly from these competencies,” says FCA education specialist Laura Vanhanen.

“FCA has been successful in leveraging some of the best practices from the Finnish education system and creating new solutions and services for education needs in refugee contexts. In Greece our goal for these tech workshops is to offer youth access to relevant skills.”

Workshops are organised in an open technology lab which FCA set up at Impact Hub Athens. The trainers are computing experts from Greek open source and open data communities. After a successful pilot, FCA is looking for partners to scale up in other parts of Greece.

“We want to support youth in learning new skills, but also contribute to integration – offer a place to get to know one another. As the refugee population becomes an integral part of the European landscape, it is critical to find new ways resulting in social cohesion. Learning to code together motivates to collaborate,” Vanhanen says.

The economic crisis has had its toll on Greek youth. Over 45 per cent of the youth are unemployed, and the figure is among  the highest in Europe. There are approximately 20 000 refugees under the age of 18 living in Greece at the moment. Most of them do not have access to education.

“Python is the number one programming language and I have already learned the basics,” rejoices Said, 18, from Afghanistan, who has been studying with FCA and wishes to continue studying in autumn.