RMUSP Students Debate in Kosice, Slovakia

More than 80 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 Slovakia, had the opportunity to assemble at the Kulturpark in Košice and to engage with representatives of the Roma intelligentsia in Slovakia as well as experts who deal with Roma issues in a day-long debate on education, Roma identity, and the portrayal of Roma in the Slovak media.

Lydia Gabčová, member of the Slovak Governing Board of the Roma Education Fund; Jana Gáborová Kroková, a former scholarship holder currently working at Documentary and Information Centre of Romani Culture at the State Scientific Library in Presov; and university teacher Ján Holonič all underlined for students the importance of study to mastering knowledge and later finding employment.

In particular, Jana Gáborová Kroková, a former scholarship holder pointed out, that the education is the only sustainable and fair way of reducing the social and economic differences between the Roma and non Roma members of the society.

Bene Olívia, an RMUSP student and also a teacher in a kindergarten, mentioned the importance of a desegregated education system. From her own experience she has observed that Roma children, attending the same preschool institutions as non-Roma, achieved the same results as their non-Roma classmates in the first years of school.

Laco Oravec from the Milana Šimečku Foundation debated with students on issues of identity and veteran journalist Jarmila Vaňová explained to students the changing and challenging images of Roma in Slovak mainstream media. Scholarship finalists had the opportunity to personally talk with the guests and draw inspiration from their stories.

"The Roma Education Fund’s programs in Slovakia target desegregation, supporting and enabling Roma youth to study, because we know that education is the only way to get out of the difficult situation in which many Roma are in. REF helps not only university students but also students of secondary schools with a scholarship, mentoring and tutoring program,” said Viktor Teru, Country Facilitator from the Fund’s Slovak office.

“In addition to the scholarship program, the Roma Education Fund deals with a range of learning support. It recently hosted an international conference of Roma teachers in Bratislava. We believe we have a role to play in informing the public about Slovakia's young Roma intellectuals – who in the near future will change the view of the majority about the Roma community in Slovakia,” continued Viktor Teru.

Stanislava Dzúriková, coordinator of RMUSP in Slovakia, informed the audience that the scholarship is not granted automatically: they must meet very strict criteria, among which the main emphasis is placed on academic performance. 

REF scholarship holders are future lawyers, economists, artists, engineers, doctors, police and also represent many other professions. The scholarship supports all levels of tertiary study, from BA to MA to PhD.

In its tenth year of operation, the Roma Education Fund provides some 1,500 tertiary scholarships annually, in sixteen countries, and has supported over 7,000 Roma students to attend university.

For a gallery of the event, click here.