RMUSP Student Forum in Budapest, Hungary

More than 110 Roma university students have received their scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year from the Roma Education Fund’s Scholarship Program. Young college students, coming from all over Hungary, had the opportunity to assemble at Erste Bank’s conference facilities in Budapest and engage with fellow students and alumni, as well as representatives of Roma civil society in Hungary who deal with Roma issues during a half- debate on education, Roma identity and the portrayal of Roma in the Hungarian media.

“The REF Scholarship Program has made it possible for over 7,000 Roma students to attend university in Central and South Eastern Europe and the Balkans. This year in Hungary 114 young Roma students received a scholarship, almost 60 percent of them are women, more than half of them are bachelor students and seven percent of them are studying in a postgraduate program,” said Dan Pavel Doghi, Manager of the REF Higher Education Scholarship Program.

Host Kristof Horvath, Hungary’s recent national Slam Poetry champion, began his remarks to this year’s attendees by saying, “Hold your child’s hand, take them to university, for Roma intellectuals make us invincible.”

Ilona Nótár is one of them. A cultural anthropologist in her motivational speech she stress that “becoming an intellectual, owning a diploma and fitting in the majority society doesn’t have to mean that you lose your Roma identity. Without your identity you become rootless. Never forget who you are!”

Dr. Edina Tordai, RMUSP alumna, current member of the RMUSP selection board and Legal Executive at the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, said that Roma students in higher education should not be considered an outstanding success. Because it should be natural that motivated and talented students achieve their goals. However, only 20-24 percent of Roma students finish high school and only two percent of them obtain a college diploma. Several causes are behind this phenomenon: Roma children are often forced to study in segregated schools where they get low quality education, in most of the cases they lack the appropriate social connections, family background, and they have to endure discrimination. Scholarship programs like the Roma Education Fund mean a huge support in fighting these disadvantages.

The scholarship helped Richárd Lakatos, co-founder of Roma News during his studies as well “My mother wanted to go to college at the age of 18, but she became pregnant with me and she couldn’t finish school, however, instead of her, I later graduated from the same high school and went to college to study Economic Informatics.

On behalf of the host, Erste Bank, Janos Czafrangó the Social Enterprise Developement program director gave a speech about the joy of learning. After the speeches the scholars attended two workshops about the topic of Roma identity led by Gabor Daroczi, Director of RomaVersitas Hungary, and the potrayal of Roma in the Hungarian media by Szilvi Suri from Roma Press Center.

The speakers encouraged the students to go back to their communities and be an example to the next generation: show them the value of education and they, too, can become successful through their studies.

“The goal of your effort is that one day when they say, ‘You’re like a Gypsy,’ they’ll think that you have three diplomas and speak four languages!” said Kristóf Horváth about the responsibility of young Roma professionals.

This year, the Roma Education Fund marks its 10 year anniversary. REF has supported Roma students with scholarships in 16 countries, including Hungary, in order to provide more opportunities for young Roma and study in and graduate from university.

For a gallery of the event, click here.