A New Roma Elite is Rising

 The grant ceremony of the Roma Education Fund

 The grant ceremony of the Roma Education Fund

Last Friday 167 Roma undergraduates were awarded with the grant of the Roma Education Fund (REF) in Budapest, Hungary. REF, the organization with clearly the greatest international experience in Roma education, strives to straighten out social inequalities with a grant system addressing the Roma youth.
In the present academic year, REF is the only organization that provides a massive financial support for the Roma in higher education.This year 228 students submitted their application for the grant. The 167 winners come from various fields of the Hungarian higher education; among the awardees we can find logistic managers, lawyers, and criminologists, just as teachers, soldiers, and medical doctors.


As Judit Szira, head of REF, pointed out at the ceremony, this year was special because each applicant had agreed to openly declare oneself a gypsy and appear as a Roma on the organization’s site. “This gesture of theirs gives testimony of a healthy identity and great courage. The Roma Education Fund wishes to support a visible Roma elite,” Judit Szira said in the opening.


Nine-time world champion boxer Mihály Kótai, who is now a freshman at Semmelweis University, the most prestigious medical school of Hungary, was among the speakers of the ceremony. It was the first time that sportsman-student Kótai, from the gypsy rows of Rakamaz, explained to a large crowd of Roma youngsters how one’s gypsy origin can be a source of motivation. “Naturally, a boy with an upper-middle class upbringing in Buda would have had an easier start. Nevertheless, it is exactly one’s origin that can facilitate things to happen, as it gives a lot of strength. If you have a dream, and if you are able to fight for it, like I did, then you can do anything,” Kótai encouraged his fellow students.