Law and Humanities Program Invests in Roma Student Networks, Roma Student Success

As part of its ongoing work to create and shape a critical body of Roma university graduates and professionals, the Roma Education Fund’s Scholarship Program hosted students from the Law and Humanities Program in Budapest in July for an annual networking and learning event. Aiming to facilitate peer networks and share experiences unique to Roma students, this year's conference provided an empowering program of workshops, discussions and social events. 

REF’s Higher Education Program Manager Dan Pavel Doghi remarked, “We want them to be active citizens.” He emphasized that most Roma students, other than those enrolled in a few of the region’s Romology departments, have had little exposure to any formal national curriculum covering Roma culture, history and identity and the contributions Roma have made to arts, culture, humanities and sciences. Moreover, Roma students often refuse to openly identify as Roma due to persistent stereotypes and discrimination present in their home countries. 

Forty-four students – selected for their academic performance from a total student body of 202 in 2015-2016 – learned in the introductory sessions how REF has impacted Roma access to higher education not only in their respective countries but across another 13 countries spanning from Czech Republic to Turkey.

Raicheva Albina from Ukraine echoed the need for REF’s support of Roma students: “REF’s financial and professional support of Roma youth in pursuing higher education has significantly increased the level of education among Ukrainian Roma.” 

After this encouraging news of the Fund’s supporting Roma access to higher education, the program shifted to reflect on this year’s theme, Gender Relations and Roma Identity. The workshops presented the increasing trend of young Roma women in Moldova, Russia and Ukraine to not be relegated to traditional gender roles but to complete university and join the modern workforce.

Zola Kondur, an acknowledged expert on Roma women’s issue, held the floor, provoking free discussion and challenging students’ perceptions of Roma gender roles and how education and integration may empower their careers and lives ahead.

Students like Nikolainenka Andrii from Ukraine saved their comments for the evaluation and wrote, “Change and movement are progress. Not all traditions are necessary. Some of them are not traditions when they violate rights.”

On the second day, students listened to presentations by Ion Duminica from the Moldovan Academy of Sciences on Roma history and culture, with a documentary spotlight on Papusha, one of the most important Roma chroniclers of the recent past.

“We have to pursue our goal even if the entire world is against us,” said Koriak Oleksandra. 

Photographs from the event can be found by clicking here.

The Law and Humanities Program is made possible thanks to support from The Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future. 

More information about LHP can be found hereREF Scholarship Program Officer Radoslav Kuzmanov also can be contacted regarding LHP's opportunities for Roma university students in Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.