REF Pilots New Gala Format for Scholarship Students in Budapest

In its last and final of six scholarship galas in autumn 2013, the Roma Education Fund (REF) expanded the format and duration of the event in Hungary. Already established as events for networking and sharing experiences, the Roma Education Fund sought this year to invest more time in students’ perspectives in addition to a public event.

Held in the Eighth District’s new student space, H13, students spent part of the day engaged in two closed workshops, run by Romani professionals leading in their respective fields, and which focused on pitfalls and opportunities that await new graduates in the labor market as well as how to negotiate and maintain Romani identity.

After a lunch break and informal opportunities for networking, the event opened to the public and press. Among the distinguished guests were  Ágnes Osztolykán, among the first of Hungary’s Romani female members of Parliament (LMP), and Béla Lakatos, the Romani mayor of Acs who has led a Hungarian majority constituency for many years. In addition to themes of empowerment and academic success, the audience was wooed with the roots music of Kalyi Jag, later wowed by Ferenc Molnár, or Caramel, one of Hungary’s leading popular musicians, and surprised by the educational message of a young collective of Romani poets led by Kristof Horvath.

This event on November 18, 2013 celebrated and publicly recognized REF scholarship beneficiaries educational achievements and success. Hailing from across Hungary and studying across a wide range of disciplines, they all are finalists to receive the 2013-2014 Roma Memorial University Scholarship awarded by the Roma Education Fund.

The Roma Education Fund is exceptionally proud to be able to recognize this new wave of Romani students applying to, enrolling in and graduating from state-accredited universities in Hungary and this year’s RMUSP scholars are studying in fields across the academic spectrum as both undergraduate and graduate students. Competition for the award has steadily increased over the years, although this year a slight dip in applications and enrollment was recorded.

The Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program provides merit-based support to Romani students pursuing tertiary education at state-accredited universities in their countries of residence. Demand has been growing in all 16 countries where the Roma Education Fund operates its Scholarship Program, and the volume and quality of applications has shown dramatic improvement over the years, indicating an untapped and unacknowledged pool of skilled and talented individuals who are beginning to claim their places in their schools, workplaces, communities and societies.

This event in Budapest was the last in a series of RMUSP autumn galas that celebrated and recognized finalists across the region: previous events were in Nitra, Prague, Tirana, Skopje and Sofia.

The Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program is funded in part by the Open Society Foundations, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Swiss Development Corporation and the UK Department for International Development. 

In addition to its scholarship activities, REF is actively working to improve access to all levels of education through comprehensive support and programs working for school desegregation, the abolition of special schools, and increasing access to early childhood education and care. Working with a variety of local partners and stakeholders, the Roma Education Fund has disbursed over EUR 1.8 million to provide small technical assistance and capacity-building grants to support the implementation of local education projects.

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