A New Generation of Roma Memorial University Scholars Gather Together in Skopje

The Roma Education Fund (REF) gathered together over 100 Romani university students from across the Republic of Macedonia on Friday, November 8, 2013. All finalists to receive the 2013-2014 Roma Memorial University Scholarship awarded by the Roma Education Fund, they are part of new generation of Romani students applying to, enrolling in and graduating from state-accredited universities in the region. Studying across the academic spectrum, as both undergraduate and graduate students, more and more Romani students are choosing higher education in order to advance their professional careers.

Welcomed by REF’s longtime Board Member, Mr. Nadir Redzepi and warmed by the violin improvisations of RMUSP alumna, Bajsa Arifovska, REF’s student beneficiaries were inspired by an exciting roster of distinguished guests. Ms. Ketrina Sefer, and Doan Sulejmanoski, two young and talented Romani students led the event with comments on their struggles to apply to and enroll in university. Two leading Romani women who are pioneers in their respective fields, Ms. Alma Salimovska, among the first female Roma lawyers in Macedonia, and Ms. Vaska Bajramovska, the newly appointed first Deputy Ombudsman of the Roma ethnic community, sought to inspire the new generation of Macedonian Roma for whom the door has been opened by the efforts and achievements of people like themselves.

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. This year REF will disburse 119 scholarships in Macedonia. This number has fluctuated over the last five years, from a low of 80 Romani students supported in Macedonia in 2012 to a peak of 123 students in 2009, with an overall acceptance rate of approximately 50 percent.

Demand has been growing in nearly every country where the Roma Education Fund operates its Scholarship Program, and the volume and quality of applications has shown dramatic improvement over the years, indicating an untapped and unacknowledged pool of skilled and talented individuals who are beginning to claim their places in their schools, workplaces, communities and societies.

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 Skopje is the third part of a series of RMUSP galas that celebrate and recognize finalists across the region: a simultaneous event was also held in Prague, and two more events follow in Sofia on November 15 and in Budapest on November 18. REF also hosted RMUSP students in Nitra, Slovakia on October 30. 

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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