REF University Scholars Assemble in Tirana

The Roma Education Fund today assembled together a group of university students in Tirana to publicly celebrate their achievements. All finalists to receive the 2013-2014 Roma Memorial University Scholarship, they are part of a growing body of Romani and Egyptian students attending universities across Albania. Studying across the academic spectrum, as both undergraduate and graduate students, an increasing number of Romani students are choosing higher education in order to advance their professional careers.

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. In 2012, the RMUSP scholarship scheme provided approximately 37 scholarships to Romani students in Albania. This year the Scholarship Program will support 36 students. Since 2008, when REF provided just four scholarships, the trend has shown a dramatic increase, such that REF has rejected 29 potential beneficiaries.

This afternoon’s public gala featured an inspirational message from His Excellency Alexander Wittwer, the Swiss Ambassador to Albania, and a REF Board Member. In his remarks, he said, “You, students and scholars, started and continued an education which will enable you to make a choice. A choice for yourself, your families and your own future. It shows that you know what you want in the future, that you want to shape your life and be a positive example for others to follow. And you know that you do not stand alone.”

Ambassador Wittwer was joined by some of RMUSP’s most remarkable students who shared their stories of academic and personal achievement with the audience of peers.

In addition to its scholarship activities, REF supports 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.

This inaugural event in Tirana is part of a series of RMUSP galas that celebrate and recognize finalists across the region: in Skopje on November 8, with a simultaneous event in Prague on November 8, in Sofia on November 15 and in Budapest on November 18. 
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.

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