Study! Grow! Inspire! Unite! REF Applauds 2014 RMUSP Finalists in Bulgaria

On Friday, November 21, at an official ceremony in Sofia, 220 Roma university students were awarded REF’s Roma Memorial University Scholarship (RMUSP) for their continuing academic success. By accepting their scholarships, they join for 2014-2015 a group of approximately 1,070 RMUSP recipients from Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey.

For the current academic year REF received 507 scholarship applications from across Bulgaria and approved 220 of them. The biggest number of beneficiaries is from pedagogic majors, and geographically the biggest number of beneficiaries is from the North-West Bulgaria. In Sofia the largest number of Roma students is in New Bulgarian University, followed by Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.” The beneficiaries are the realization of REF’s almost ten-year effort to build a generation of young Roma active in all spheres of academic and professional life.

“An educated Roma is an asset of society, as well as any educated citizen is an asset of society, regardless of ethnicity,” said Radoslav Kuzmanov, Program Officer of REF’s Scholarship Program in Budapest. “Education is the most appropriate tool for social and economic inclusion and prosperity. An educated person is valuable for society. We aim to have more Roma university graduates each year. We make a focused effort to promote access to quality, inclusive education to all Roma and close the gap in educational achievements between Roma and non-Roma. The REF Scholarship Program has provided over 15,000 Scholarships in almost ten years of operation and disburses on average, annually, over 1,500 scholarships to Roma students pursuing tertiary education,” he added.

The host of the ceremony was Valeri Lekov, an independent actor popular to the audience from the documentary film Roma Quixote. Prominent figures who participated included Rumyan Russinov, one of Bulgaria’s leading Roma activists, former deputy director of REF and currently associated with Roma Public Policy Advocacy Center, Radostina Chaprazova from the Arete Youth Foundation, Orhan Tahir from Civil Society in Action and Milin Djalaliev from Saatchi&Saatchi.

After a short break for refreshments, the student audience participated in two workshops that addressed Roma identity and expectations of mainstream society led by Orhan Tahir and REF’s Country Facilitator Ognyan Isaev. The second workshop explored equal opportunities in the labor market, with panelists Maria Metodieva from the Trust for Social Achievement and Radostina Chaprazova, with Milin Djalaliev directing a series of interactive exercises aimed at improving communication skills.

This third annual event in Sofia brings together students studying sciences and humanities across Bulgaria with a one-day forum for them to share their experiences, while encouraging them to build the relationships that will follow them throughout their future academic and professional lives.

The gala series will continue with a final event in Belgrade next week.