Open Letter from the Executive Director to Roma Education Fund Beneficiaries

On behalf of the Roma Education Fund, I would like to personally send our greetings and to wish you success in the new school year. I believe you have recharged over the summer holidays and you’re now ready for new challenges and learning. I would like to highlight that your learning needs are essential to our mission, irrespective of whether you are a student, parent or teacher. REF is devoted to supporting you in achieving respectable educational accomplishments. Since 2005, we have traveled together, patiently and persistently, joining together to reach a common goal – acquiring knowledge and diplomas.

At the beginning of the new academic year, I want to convey a three important messages to you regarding our future endeavors.

First, REF will continue to work with schools, teachers and parents in order to foster institutional dialogue and incentives for better learning performances of Roma pupils. The education of children is compulsory and it is also the responsibility of the school system, a duty that obliges, in particular schools, teachers and parents, to ensure that all children realize their potential. The education of Roma belongs to mainstream education systems. As such it has to be adequately considered when setting future institutional solutions. Yet, practice shows that “soft” reminders about legal and institutional responsibility do not improve the accountability of key actors, which means that in the upcoming years we will have to cope with the challenge of the historic legacy of discrimination in our societies.

Second, REF’s mission and model interventions are grounded (and justified) on the collective situation of the Roma population in Europe. In principle, the overall goal of REF interventions is closely related to the EU definition of social inclusion, in which we believe that education is a tool for peace and prosperity, as well as a capital investment for conflict prevention and social cohesion. REF support is provided to a limited number of individuals, schools and communities with the expectation that, in a given time, most of them will become change-drivers. The critical point for REF and its allies is the question of change in terms of scope and quality, and in particular how to reproduce change at a collective level.

Third, the above mentioned challenges impose on REF, its partners and its beneficiaries the need to search for new forms of participatory and proactive cooperation. This is a basic prerequisite if we want to create socially equitable and inclusive education systems for the next generations of Roma pupils. The legal environment of education systems is grounded in equity and inclusion principles. But in reality education platforms and knowledge transfer are largely influenced by economic and cultural competition, which consequently shapes the dynamics and the quality of social interactions among different groups. REF needs your proactive engagement and contributions in order to increase the effects and impact of our work on a broader scale.

I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to join the REF Network and advocate for the needs of its next beneficiaries, all those, who like you, need additional support to overcome discrimination, bias, neglect and exclusion in schools. Become a REF messenger, volunteer or alumni. Be the multiplying factor in spreading the word about your example. Voice your concerns, propose solutions and share your ideas with all stakeholders who you believe can do something for the betterment of Roma children and youth. Share your achievements and impacts with REF so we can promote them, too.

Stay tuned as we build an interactive outreach tool for you to comment through our website and social media in the upcoming weeks.

Sincerely yours,

Nadir Redzepi, Executive Director
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