“[Sky School is a] ground-breaking effort to help refugees and displaced youth to fulfill their aspirations and ambitions by offering the opportunity to pursue quality secondary education. Sky School goes beyond teaching a language and incorporates opportunities to develop critical thinking and explore topics that [learners who are refugees] are interested in and are relevant to their everyday life.”
Sky School would like to introduce you to another one of our dynamic and passionate Course Facilitators, Elissavet.
From a young age, Elissavet had what most would consider realistic goals and expectations. Growing up in Greece during the height of the financial and political crisis however, dramatically shaped her life experience, leading her to make decisions along the way that she could not have foreseen.
As a high school student in Greece at the height of angst in the country, Elissavet and her peers were exposed to the grim truth of their situation as the next generation coming into the work force in a country severely lacking in economic opportunity and upward mobility. Regardless of the quality of their education and degrees, in order to secure a worthwhile job, they would likely have to emigrate abroad and leave their home behind.
Elissavet had a chance to study abroad as a high school student at UWC Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As she describes it, “During my time there, the transformational power of education became evident to me in an environment where people from all ethnic backgrounds in [the country] were living and studying together.” Less than twenty years prior, the country endured a brutal civil war which saw people from the same ethnic backgrounds as the students now sitting together in class, fighting for control of the nation.
Following this experience, Elissavet went on to complete her BA in Global Challenges in the Netherlands where she studied Politics at the Hague and Education in Argentina. Her thesis topic was focused on Teacher Training for Peace Education in Cyprus.
The island of Lesbos is where Elissavet grew up. This island received more refugees than any other part of Greece in recent years and while home from school one summer, Elissavet could see people arriving on boats where she and her family lived. People would often arrive on the west shore of the island, but the registration center that processed them was located on the east shore, which meant these people had to travel the 75 km from one end of the island to the other in the tormenting heat of summer. Elissavet experienced the helplessness of wanting to help these people by offering them a ride, something so easily done, but was prohibited by local law which considered such action to be aiding their illegal entry into the country. At best, she could offer them water, which obviously did not suffice her drive to offer meaningful aid.
Elissavet’s desire to be of further help to this very specific demographic became based on the neglect and disempowerment she witnessed them enduring. Due to a need to contribute to the integration of refugees into their new societies while simultaneously enabling them to realise their full potential and fulfill their ambitions, she found a path to achieving all of these through facilitating Sky School courses to refugees in Athens.
It was during a gap year in-between the completion of her BA and the pursuit of her MPhil in Education that she found out about Sky School and became a facilitator for Sky School in Greece. “My decision to get involved as a facilitator is linked both to the experience that Sky School was offering and, most importantly, its wider, overarching mission to offer quality secondary education to refugees and displaced youth. My Greek origin and my understanding of the variety of difficulties and obstacles that refugees are faced with when looking to access educational opportunities informed my decision to support Sky School’s mission.”
Since joining the Sky School team autumn 2017, Elissavet has facilitated Sky School courses on Social Entrepreneurship and Peace-building in Athens. Reflecting on this, Elissavet said, “Facilitating courses for Sky School has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I think that the most important thing that I learned was how to find my place in facilitating and supporting the learning process of my students, rather than teaching them. I struggled with questions such as ‘who am I to talk to them about peacebuilding and about fighting for their dream?’ You have to realise that many students have had experiences that most of us could not even begin to understand. So, it was very important to be reflective and to understand that you have as much to learn from them as they have to learn from you, and even more at times.”
Elissavet’s life experiences coupled with the perseverance and ambition of the course participants ensured they were a success and something students truly benefited from. The courses have now been delivered in several countries to dozen of refugee recipients.
Elissavet and our other facilitators play a key role in making Sky School programmes a success. As an educator, Elissavet is keenly aware of the “reality of the need to integrate people in their new societies and enable them to realize their full potential and fulfill their ambitions.” This awareness is what allows her to make an impact in the lives of her students.