Study! Grow! Inspire! Unite! REF Brings Together 2014 RMUSP Finalists in Serbia

On Friday, November 28, over 50 Roma university students gathered together at an official ceremony organized by the Roma Education Fund in Belgrade; as the first group of students to fulfill all the criteria for the 90 place made available for this year’s Roma Memorial University Scholarship (RMUSP) in Serbia, they  join, for 2014-2015, a group of approximately 1,070 RMUSP recipients from Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey, all of whom are the legacy of REF’s ten-year effort to build a generation of young Roma active in all spheres of academic and professional life.

This first ever event in Belgrade brings together Roma students studying sciences and humanities in Serbia with the explicit aim of creating a public motivational forum for them to share their experiences as well as provide the conditions for them to build the relationships that will follow them throughout their future academic and professional lives.

Hosted by Jelica Nikolic, REF Scholarship Program’s Country Coordinator, at the premises of the National Bank of Serbia, the ceremony began with remarks by keynote speaker Zeljko Jovanovic, Director of the Open Society Foundations’ Roma Initiative Office in Budapest, about his family’s belief in self-determination and education, important messages for Serbian Roma students also facing their own obstacles and challenges for inclusion and social justice.

Dan Pavel Doghi, REF’s Higher Education Program Manager, provided some details and technicalities about the RMUSP portfolio in Serbia. He also spoke about the cumulative impact of REF scholarships on Roma successfully completing higher education and the envisaged potential and influence of RMUSP alumnae in many sectors of today’s Serbian society.

Anasztazia Nagy, REF’s Country Officer for Serbia, presented an overall picture of REF’s work in Serbia, including the Romaversitas program in Novi Sad and Nis, REF’s secondary school program now being rolled out across the entire country as part of an EU-funded Instrument for Pre-Accession, as well as the achievements of REF’s consortium of grantees running Toy Libraries in some of Serbia’s most disadvantaged Roma communities.

In a personal appeal about the value of education, Marija Osmanovic, REF Serbia’s Regional Coordinator, recalled a heartrending story about how education was her exit from menial labor and how it went on to open the door to a successful and fulfilling professional life.

Two current RMUSP finalists, Martin Osmanovic, an MA student in Information Technology, and Silvija Nesic, a freshman enrolled in the Academy of Arts later spoke of their journeys to higher education, its personal value to them, and the obstacles and challenges they face in their academic lives, reminding all the participants that for each and every one of them are many less privileged Roma children and youth.

A networking reception followed for speakers and students to continue to share their opinions about the value of education and their mutual aspirations for the future of Roma education.

The Belgrade event concluded this year’s gala series attended by hundreds of RMUSP students in Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia between October 21 and November 28. 

To access the photos, click here.