Last September 2020, the Habibi Center felt enthusiastic about filling in the registration forms so that new students could take Cambridge exams on the 5 December (4 students for A2 level and 3 for B1 level). Unfortunately, as a result of the strict lockdown imposed by Greek authorities since last 7 November, the dates of those exams have already been postponed 4 times (19 December, early February, 20 March, and now 29 May).
It is not an easy task to register our students to take those Cambridge exams as there are usually some changes from the day we pay until the exam’s date. One of the main issues is that students don’t show as much commitment as the Habibi Center’s team expects. That lack of commitment might be due to several factors usually seen in the refugee youth, such as low self-confidence and fear to face a new failure in life, as well as lack of focus as a result of their unstable legal situation full of uncertainty, sudden interviews with their lawyers and constant issues with their asylum documents. In addition to that regularly occurring scenario, we are quite concerned about the detrimental consequences of the strict lockdowns imposed by Greek authorities since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic in March 2020. The suspension of most of the educational programmes that refugee youth were able to attend, owing to these extreme movement restrictions, have triggered an important increase of depressive cases. As a result, the fragile sense of structure and routine provided for a long time by all those educational programmes, including the Habibi Center, has been dramatically disrupted. For example, only focusing on the 8 students registered last September to take one of the Cambridge exams, 3 of them have had to stop attending the Habibi Center and been withdrawn from the exams due to those common negative factors, which have been radically worsened by the Covid-19 restrictive measures.
Right now, our primary wish is that free movement is restored as soon as possible and everybody is able to continue living their lives as before. Although all these current restrictions are affecting most of us considerably, they do affect refugee youth to a greater degree. Another clear example is in regard to these Cambridge exams as many Greek teenagers will be able to take them in the near future when the current situation improves, but some of our students will not. As a result of the measures suffered since March 2020, their only chance already passed and they are no longer part of the Habibi Center due to 2 main reasons: relocations to other countries or their feared adulthood, which pushes most of them to stop studying in order to find a job and sustain their independent lives. Despite all these added challenges, we, teachers and students, continue pushing as much as we can.
We would like to thank our friends in the U.K. who donated some money last year to register some students, as well as some others who have recently helped us with the registration of 6 other students who started preparing for the A2 exam and 1 for the B2 exam last January 2021. Your money will, hopefully, pay off in the end of May. Finally, we would also like to express our immense gratitude to the British Council Athens (organisation through which we have been registering our students since the end of 2017) for considering our special needs, understanding the unstable legal situation of our students, and kindly allowing our requested changes.