April - July 2016
Piraeus Port Unofficial Camp
In the spring of 2016, the European countries bordering Greece closed their borders to people fleeing war and persecution, who were passing through Greece to get to the rest of Europe. Most were crossing the Aegean in a dinghy, leaving the west coast of Turkey and arriving on one of the eastern Greek Islands, such as Lesvos and Chios. From there, ferries brought them to Piraeus port in Athens. Unable to move further, many set up camp in Piraeus to await replacement.
By the time we began No Border School, there were 6,000 people sleeping in tents on the hot concrete of the terminals E1 and E2. NGO’s and self-organized volunteers from all over the world had arrived to assist people with their most basic needs. However, the language barrier proved to be a huge problem. It led to misunderstanding and frustration which often culminated in aggression and violence. There were numerous pockets of people of differing ethnicities and language groups in the camp, forming separate communities, acting in isolation from each other and often working against each other. At the same time, the NGO’s at the port created distance between themselves and the people at the port by putting volunteers in positions of power and giving them special vests to distinguish them from refugees and migrants.
No Border School was the result of a collaboration between activists and migrants at the port, as an effort to bring people together and to create a sense of community, transcending boundaries formed by languages and nationalities and acting as an alternative to the top-down approach by the NGO’s. The idea was that education would enable communication and self-expression, which in turn leads to self-empowerment. In order to get there, No Border School decided on opening lines of communication through language classes.
Thanks to a joined effort of activists and refugees, we managed to supply basic teaching resources such as a white board, markers, phrasebooks, pens and notebooks. Soon, English and German classes became very popular inside the waiting room of the terminal.
In the following months, those living in the camp already proficient in English joined No Border School as teachers, cultural mediators and translators and thanks to the increasing number of teachers, we were able to offer classes for different levels.
As July arrived and the government decided to evict the port we were pressurised into leaving the camp, which meant that we lost our classroom and hangout space. However, we decided to stay until the last day. Once everybody had left the camp we decided to follow our students to central Athens and continue to provide classes there.
July - August 2016
The newly established Hospital Squat had little structure and few activities - what a perfect place to teach. We collaborated with some other volunteers and established english lessons for both the young and the older. The space was quite tight, but it takes more than that to stop the learning process. We taught in the squat until it was shut down at the end of August.
October - November 2016
Oniro Squat began as a humble education project and the only project that focused exclusively on children. Oniro was a small hotel housing about 100 squatters, several of which were children. We repurposed a small storage room in order to hold a loosely structured English class for about 8 students from ages 6 to 13. We taught this class an hour a day, 5 days a week. Due to the increasing need for housing, the classroom was eventually converted to a space for accommodation. The project ended in November of 2016.