Afghan refugee in Greece achieves secondary school scholarship opportunity in the United States

12-year-old Arezu with her mother Mariam, refugees from Afghanistan, on Lesvos island. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios

“We need to think outside the box…because you learn more things outside the box. It’s like a cage, you need to be a free bird” says Arezu, an incredibly talented and eloquent Afghan refugee of just 12-years-old, currently living on Lesvos island in Greece.

This week is the return to school for many children around the world, including in Greece. For many, it is the first time they will re-enter the classrooms following many months of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For others, COVID-19 is not the only barrier to accessing education. A report published by UNHCR last week highlighted that only 34% of school aged refugee children are currently enrolled in secondary level education. Arezu is one of the lucky ones.

In Arezu’s native Afghanistan, access to education, particularly for girls, is a huge challenge, particularly given the ongoing humanitarian crisis where more than 600,000 people have been internally displaced this year alone.

Arezu arrived in Greece in 2016 with her parents and her younger sister. When she was just seven years old and her mother was 8 months pregnant with her younger