“I feel Greek”, says the Nigerian-Greek teen flag-bearer thrust into the political debate

A 17-year-old African Greek student, who unintentionally found herself at centre of a political debate between Greek PM Kyriakos Mitostakis and leader of the major opposition party Alexis Tsipras in Parliament, spoke about her her experience as a child of African immigrants in Greece to Skai TV and her dreams and aspirations.

Merci was the flag-bearer for her high-school during the students parade on October 28 in celebrations of the national OXI Day. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants who moved to Greece 20 years ago, Merci said she felt like a Greek. “I’ve grown up here. I was born here. I’m going to school here. I do what the Greeks do.”

Commenting on an excerpt of the Greek PM’s speech in the House where he said he felt proud of the young lady, she said she was very pleased. “I was very pleased. I was did not expect it. They see that not only Greeks can be a flag bearer but anyone” Merci said.

Born and raised in the neighbourhood of Patisia, Merci says her parents came to Greece for economic reasons. “This is the main reason my parents came to Greece for economic reasons. So they could find a better future. Sometimes they feel more Greek than Greeks,” the 17-year-old said with a smile.

Students are chosen as flag bearers in the two national holiday parades based on their academic performance in school.

“I was the flag-bearer three times in total. One in elementary, one in junior high school and now in senior high school. On all three occasions I was very happy and moved because I saw my efforts being rewarded. Everybody was very supportive and I didn’t feel any sense of underestimation or people wondering why I was the flag bearer,” she said.

She studies for many hours on a daily basis to realise her dreams. “I want to study medicine and cardiology. It’s something I wanted from a young age and I hope I can do it,” the 17-year-old said.