Ten Years of the Roma Education Fund

See video

The Roma Education Fund (REF) celebrates ten years of working to close the gap in educational achievements between Roma and non-Roma. Since 2005, REF has led the way across 16 European countries to expand access, ensure equity, and improve educational outcomes for tens of thousands of Roma from preschool to higher education.

Partnership makes change possible, and on the occasion of our tenth anniversary, REF would like to say a big thank you to our donors, supporters and board members who share our vision and have done so much to assist our work, enabled us to expand our activities, and increase our impact on the ground. A special note of appreciation and gratitude goes out to REF staff, whose dedication and professionalism has made REF what it is today, and directly contributes to changing the lives of tens of thousands of young Roma across the region.

In 2005 REF reached 5,000 beneficiaries; 10 years later the number of its annual beneficiaries has increased twentyfold and now exceeds 100,000. REF supported more than 60,600 children with direct enrollment in early childhood development programs, and dropout-prevention programs have reached over 113,000 Roma pupils.

In ten years REF has developed working partnerships with many school principals and mayors; collaborated with local and national authorities; and forged close links with Roma communities, empowering and actively engaging Roma parents. REF would like to thank all those partners working in the schools and the communities, who strive every day to make equal access to quality schooling and better educational outcomes a reality for Roma students.

While this is a time to celebrate our achievements, there is much that remains to be done. REF’s investment in early childhood development programs, support for Roma children to succeed mainstream schools, and services to prevent early-school leaving have made a huge impact. In Romania, for example, 80 percent of Roma pupils now complete primary school, compared to 66 percent 10 years ago.

From kindergarten to university REF has demonstrated what needs to be done to make equal opportunities a reality for Roma pupils. REF has pioneered successful approaches to desegregate schools and improve the quality of education so that Roma pupils can thrive and succeed in secure and inclusive learning environments.

However, the reality is that today very many disadvantaged Roma children do not go to preschool; too many children are educated in segregated schools and classrooms; and dropout rates remain high.

Until the cycles of discrimination and disadvantage are broken, REF will persist in its mission to meet these challenges, with model interventions that successfully promote inclusive, quality education for Roma children, proving that positive change is possible.

We look forward to celebrating the day when REF can wholeheartedly state that its work is done!