In 2018 REF developed a new strategy for the next decade. REF Romania led the construction and refurbishment of Kindergartens and REF Serbia began providing secondary school scholarships and facilitating the transition of Roma youth into the labor market.
In 2017 REF developed a new strategy for the next decade. REF Romania led the construction and refurbishment of Kindergartens and REF Serbia began started providing secondary school scholarships and facilitating the transition of Roma youth into the labor market.
Nadir Redzepi joined REF as its first Roma Executive Director and REF began a new cycle of restructuring and growth with a renewed commitment to sustaining change in the Roma education field. Read More
Nadir Redzepi joined REF as its first Roma Executive Director and REF began a new cycle of restructuring and growth with a renewed commitment to sustaining change in the Roma education field.
Ready Set Go funded by Norway Grants starts refurbishing its first kindergarten in Romania in March.
REF Scholarship Program launches its eleventh year of operation. From 2500 applicants, some 1,400 scholarships were awarded, weighted toward STEM subjects.
European Commission launches infringement proceeding against Hungary for de facto school segregation in April.
Together with Open Society Foundations’ Roma Initiatives Office and Velux Foundation, REF launches the Roma in European Societies Initiative at Central European University in Hungary, a rigorous five-year program to strengthen and support Roma academics.
LeMonde from France and EFE Agency from Spain featured REF grantees who are combatting school segregation in northeastern Hungary in August.
RomaVersitas opened in Romania, joining a regional program in eight countries with 15 centers that provide soft skills as well as academic support to Roma university students.
Together with the Ministry of Education of Bulgaria, REF opened a secondary school scholarship program to fund the studies of 700 Roma students per year. Some 1,600 Roma high school students applied.
KfW – German Development Bank granted EUR 2 million for a Serbian project targeting returnees and labor market skills of Roma secondary education students.
The Decade of Roma Inclusion, a powerful coalition and policy instrument which led to the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, formally ended with a final conference in Sarajevo.
Costel Bercus left his post as Chair of the Board and was replaced by Andrzej Mirga.
The European Union commenced infringement proceedings against… Read More
Costel Bercus left his post as Chair of the Board and was replaced by Andrzej Mirga.
The European Union commenced infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic for illegally segregating Romani children in schools and providing them with a substandard education.
REF worked together with MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to design impact evaluation interventions for its projects.
REF contributed to guidelines for an EU-level expert group on early school leaving and early childhood education. These guidelines are now part of the European Commission’s recommendations for member states.
European Commission DG Enlargement awarded prizes for best projects on Roma Integration in the Western Balkans and Turkey to three REF grantees. Each
was awarded a prize of EUR 14,000. Out of the seven winners, three were REF implementing partners, while two additional partners were shortlisted.
Building on its existing RomaVersitas network in Hungary, Macedonia and Serbia, REF successfully scaled up the initiative to four more countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Moldova.
The Council of the European Union recommendations adopted on December 10, 2013 called on member states “to ensure equal treatment and full access for Roma boys and girls…Read More
The Council of the European Union recommendations adopted on December 10, 2013 called on member states “to ensure equal treatment and full access for Roma boys and girls to quality and mainstream education and to ensure that all Roma pupils complete at least compulsory education.” The measures recommended included: eliminating any school segregation; ending inappropriate placement of Roma pupils in special needs schools; reducing early school leaving; increasing access and quality of early childhood education and care; and encouraging greater parental involvement and improving teacher training – all approaches REF has provided in its activities
In 2013, the REF Board approved 39 new grant requests out of 57 incoming project applications for a contractual commitment of EUR 1.9 million. REF mobilized an additional EUR 2.3 million for Roma education from national and local governments and other funds due to the consortium partners in these projects.
Some 98 percent of students participating in REF-supported programs are completing the current academic year, and outperforming the European statistics on early school leaving.
REF is shifting from supporting pilot project ideas to model-based project support. The methodology of the model-based grant applications allows the applicant to select an implementation model that will trigger the appearance of a set of ready-made component entries and indicators, developed by REF together with an anchor team from the World Bank, in the areas of early childhood education and care, primary education with a focus on preventing early school leaving, secondary school scholarships with mentoring and tutoring, adult education programs and Romaversitas (centers) for Romani university students.
REF’s model on secondary education was scaled up by the governments of Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia; they have pledged a significant proportion of co-funding, matching REF’s efforts and resources to provide merit-based secondary school scholarships, together with tutoring and mentoring activities for a total of 3,447 Romani students.
After piloting Toy Libraries as part of REF’s early childhood education initiative, A Good Start, REF has scaled them up and started five new Toy Libraries in Serbia and one in Konik Camp, Podgorica, Montenegro.
REF and its partners pursued a new financial and professional partnership in the Czech Republic with the Municipality of Ostrava, including a small top-up of additional governmental funding, to invest in and provide access to early childhood educational services for disadvantaged Romani children. REF considered this an encouraging signal after the landmark D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic verdict.
In a consortium with Help (Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e.V.) and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Montenegro, REF started to implement a project to increase the complex integration process of Konik Camps’ inhabitants within the framework of the Assistance Program for Integration and Return of RAE and other I/DPs residing in the Konik Area. The project is financed by the European Commission’s Instruments for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and Montenegrin government funds until 2016. In this complex partnership REF designed and implemented the educational integration of Romani and Egyptian children living in Konik Camp, bussing them to mainstream schools in Podgorica and providing academic support.
In Romania, REF worked together with European Structural Funds to prevent nearly
4,000 at-risk Romani primary and secondary school students from dropping out through study halls, tutoring and mentoring. Having received a bridging loan to ensure the operation of its three European Structural Fund projects, REF Romania completed their implementation: School After School for Romani pupils at risk of dropping out, Equal Opportunities in Education providing tutoring and
mentoring to encourage young Roma to finish their studies, and Roma Health Scholarships in order to develop a new cadre of Romani health professionals.
An external evaluation of REF’s secondary school scholarship program in three Romanian regions reveals how powerful educational support services can be. Among the program’s student beneficiaries, half live in poverty or severe poverty; a quarter of them travel more than 20 kilometers from home each day to attend vocational and upper secondary schools in the region. Data shows that 70 percent of all recipients increased their grade point average (GPA) under the program; 99 percent of twelfth-graders finished their studies. Sixty-four percent who took the baccalaureate exam passed, bettering the national average of 56 percent. Forty-three percent of twelfth-graders continued their education, from whom 37 percent enrolled in college. This program data shows that it is possible to narrow the gap with conditional cash transfers coupled with careful and efficient program implementation.
Under the Tertiary Education Scholarship Program, REF awarded 1,453 scholarships to individual Romani students in 15 countries for an overall expenditure of EUR 2,975,364, which also includes all administrative costs of the program. Among the scholarship recipients in 2013–2014, 888 students were enrolled in Bachelor degree programs, 336 in Master degree programs, 103 in undivided tertiary education programs and 42 in doctoral programs.
A Tracer study of the Scholarship Program revealed that having a scholarship for the majority of Romani students was a substantive help to enroll, progress and graduate successfully from tertiary education, without making sacrifices about the desired major or compromising one’s full-time studies. While the program contributed to reducing the gap in education outcomes, the gap in employment after graduating is still substantial; the study revealed that the unemployment rate is higher among Romani higher education graduates than among non-Romani peers of comparable age.
Six national RMUSP galas were held in Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, North Macedonia and Slovakia to meet nearly 600 scholarship finalists and to provide the mass media with positive examples of Romani academic achievement and diversity.
An external evaluation of REF reported: “In general, REF has made sustainable impacts in education system through its policy work and projects, producing new models to support…Read More
An external evaluation commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Development and managed by Project Cycle Support GmbH and AppRaisal Consulting RV Helsinki reported: “In general, REF has made sustainable impacts in education system through its policy work and projects, producing new models to support access and better educational outcomes for Roma students, as well as desegregation. Impacts at individual level are obvious. Impacts are also made at mezzo-level, many organizations and communities have changed their way of work and included new activities as a result of projects financed by REF. There is clear evidence that impacts are made at macro level in promoting policies within the education system.”
Furthermore: “… parents confirmed that without REF support some of their children would not have continued school, and that without afternoon activities the children would spend most of their time on the streets. The evaluators unanimously share the observation that going to school has improved the self-esteem of the children and also promoted their Roma identity.”
A Good Start closed with an international dissemination conference in Brussels, having reached 4,000 children with its activities to improve early childhood education services, attendance and enrollment of Roma children, as well as parenting. An important finding of the project was that children attending kindergarten show the best results in all measured skills, most significantly in skills related to counting, reading, and the recognition of letters. However, the effect of the selection of children into kindergartens also plays a role, as children from poorer backgrounds or those having less educated parents are also less likely to be enrolled.
Four Scholarship Galas
Official release of Five REF Models of Intervention
Challenging ESF implementation in Romania
116 active projects
Scholarship Program continued to collect data on applicants’ socio-economic background in a more systematic way via the consolidation of the online application and evaluation system. The collected data are valuable both for understanding student needs and challenges and for making informed decisions regarding program design and policy developments.
By 2012, REF programs trained more than 24,000 teachers in making school environments less hostile to Romani children and Early School Leaving (ESL) programs reached 78,196 Romani children. REF partners reached over 309,000 Romani parents. More than 49,000 children have been supported with direct
enrollment in early childhood development programs. Over 35,000 secondary school scholarships were granted to Romani students along with school-based mentoring and tutoring. For example in Macedonia, 90 percent of students supported with scholarships completed the school year with a grade point average (GPA) over 3.05 in Macedonia.
REF Romania completed one of four European Structural Fund projects within its mandate: Roma Youth Competitive on the Labour Market. The implementation of the other three ESF Strategic Projects (School after School, Equal Opportunities in Education, and Roma Health Scholarships Projects) continued.
Together with Open Society Foundations and UNICEF, REF published Roma Early Childhood Inclusion Overview Report, a report that systematically captures and presents the situation of young Romani children.
Country Assessments for Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia were updated.
Staff member Judit Szira was appointed as Executive Director.
From 2005 to 2011, REF approved 277 grant requests for a total commitment of EUR 24,428,616.Read More
Judit Szira appointed as Executive Director.
The European Council endorsed a June call of the European Commission for member and enlargement states to develop National Roma Integration Strategies. One of the four priorities of these strategies was defined as education. The REF Network contributed to the development of these strategies and submitted position papers analyzing them to national governments and the European Commission.
Secondary Scholarship and Mentoring Program launched in Slovakia in the summer. This program builds on lessons and impacts from the Macedonian, Romanian and Serbian programs. For example, as of 2011 in Serbia, 860 scholarships were granted, nearly 55 percent going to girls and just under 45 percent to boys. With just 12.4 percent of students achieving excellent results in 2007–2008, the number had risen to 27.3 percent by 2010–2011. Similarly, when 7.3 percent of students dropped out at the beginning of the program, none dropped out in 2010–2011.
RomaVersitas scaled up and launched its third academic support center, this time in Novi Sad, Serbia.
In Serbia, REF participated in the Delivery of Improved Local Services (DILS) project, a national effort to embrace the poorest municipalities with the highest estimated number of Roma. The project is conducted by 308 local institutions and organizations – which include 56 local governments, 140 primary schools, 56 preschool institutions, and 56 Roma NGOs. The total number of Romani children aged from three to 15 covered by DILS was over 16,000.
In Bulgaria, REF supported a project in Sofia to help vulnerable families enroll their children in kindergartens through a compulsory electronic enrollment process.
REF began implementation of A Good Start, beginning with a household survey in the 16 localities where it was to be implemented. A Good Start’s comprehensive approach to early childhood education embodied many practices that went on to become the core of REF’s subsequent interventions: Toy Libraries to encourage learning by playing in vulnerable communities; Home School Community Liaison sessions in kindergartens and schools, i.e., when parents become teacher for a day, and Your Story, a women’s literary empowerment model
REF continued to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation through a partnership with the World Bank, including policy indicators that measure REF’s progress towards achieving its strategic policy objectives.
In 2011, REF supported 51 grant requests in the Decade countries. From its establishment till the end of 2011, the REF Board approved 277 grant requests for a total commitment of EUR 24,428,616. The number of active projects in 2011 was 89 and the average project size in terms of funding was EUR 58,000.
For the 2011–2012 academic year, REF introduced a new online application system to smooth the application process and collect more insightful and complete data about its applicants. REF granted scholarships to 1,497 Roma tertiary education students, from whom from whom 21 percent have rural backgrounds, 14 percent come from their respective capitals and 65 percent from urban areas excluding their respective capitals. REF also piloted a Scholarship Gala in Hungary to meet students, address their concerns, motivate them with role models and also reach out to the mainstream media.
REF published, among others, From Segregation to Inclusion. Roma Pupils in the UK (with Equality UK) and Residential Segregation, Local Policies, and School Segregation in 100 Hungarian Towns by Gábor Kézdi and Gábor Kertesi. Country Assessments for Albania, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia were updated.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in Oršuš and Others v. Croatia that Roma children had been uniquely segregated, opening the way for REF’s later work in Croatia’s Medimurje County. Read More
REF expanded its approach to act as an implementing and lead agency through the European Union Roma Pilot on Early Childhood Education with DG Near and with four European Structural Funds projects in Romania, adding to the legitimacy of REF’s interventions.
In Serbia, REF worked to improve the local implementation of new policies and regulations in order to ensure that the Preparatory Preschool Programme was available to all children; concurrently, information was being disseminated about new education legislation and Serbia’s Anti-discrimination Law. The OSCE, UNICEF and REF provided training to more than 30 NGOs, 180 Roma teaching assistants and representatives of municipalities who had previously participated in REF preschool programs in Serbia, and the Ministry of Education joined this effort to develop the competencies of educational advisors and inspectors.
In another strategic legislation victory, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Oršuš and Others v. Croatia that Roma children had been uniquely segregated, thus indicating the different treatment of one group.
REF Romania became fully operational and was awarded four European Structural Fund projects for three years: two as the main project applicant – School after School and Equal Opportunities in Education – and two as implementing partner – Roma Youth Competitive on Labour Market and Roma Health Scholarship Project.
103 site visits were made to active projects through 36 monitoring visits in 12 countries. REF had 49 active projects in December. Five projects were closed before project completion due to unsatisfactory progress, three projects were identified within the organization as best practices and the remaining 65 projects where rated as satisfactory.
1,443 Scholarships were awarded.
CEDEFOP members visited REF sites in Hungary as examples of best practices.
REF published Country Assessments for Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
After four years of operations, REF had contracted 196 projects from 497 applications.
Financial contributions by local and national authorities accounted…Read More
After four years of operations, REF had contracted 196 projects from 497 applications.
In 2009 alone REF helped 43,000 parents participate in their children’s education, 11,000 children were helped to continue with their early education and over 6,000 were helped to complete secondary education. Over 1,100 students were granted scholarship for studies at the tertiary level.
National and local governments accounted for almost 30 percent of funding for projects. For example, the Secondary Scholarship and Mentoring Program in Macedonia, in cooperation with several state actors, was retaining 98 percent of its beneficiaries. Over 95 percent of seniors were graduating. Encouraged by these results, the Directorate for Development and Promotion of the Education in the Languages of the Minorities took over the administration of this initiative, so that it can be implemented at the national scale, and the Ministry of Education and Science contributed with 30 percent co-financing.
Two of REF’s most popular research is published: School as Ghetto. Systemic Overrepresentation of Roma in Special Education in Slovakia and Assessing Conditional Cash Transfers as a Tool for Reducing the Gap in Educational
Outcomes Between Roma and Non-Roma.
REF submitted a project application to the European Commission to implement “A Good Start” – a pilot project in 16 localities in four countries to boost early childhood education outcomes.
REF hosted a second international donor conference in Brussels in November, which raised EUR 25 million in commitments.
REF established its Romania sister foundation as part of a growing REF Network, with the aim of applying for and implementing European Structural Funds that are earmarked for vulnerable groups.
Scholarship Program provided scholarships for 1,126 Roma university students.
Tobias Linden from the World Bank joined REF as Executive Director.
The European Commission held the first EU Roma Summit in Brussels.Read More
With the departure of Alexandre Marc, Julius Varallyay acted as interim Executive Director until Tobias Linden was seconded from the World Bank.
European Commission held the first EU Roma Summit in Brussels.
REF changed its policy on teachers who participated in its programs, stipulating that teachers may be paid with REF funds only for work additional to their official duties and with pupils not in their regular classes. The rationale for this policy was to avoid creating a perverse incentive for teachers to deliver less than their best effort during regular school hours.
Three REF projects – one in Hungary, two in Serbia – were found satisfactory in external evaluations.
RomaVersitas, a program of tutoring and mentoring with additional courses in soft skills tailored to Roma university students, launched in Macedonia, following the model established by RomaVersitas in Hungary.
REF scaled up its scholarship model to cover secondary school education, designing and implementing a program to provide a modest stipend and academic support in Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.
Roma Health Scholarship Program pilots in Romania in 2008-2009 academic year, eventually rolling out in Bulgaria and Macedonian and finally Serbia by academic year 2010-2011.
An external evaluation of REF as a whole found that “the greatest challenge in front of REF is to preserve and further enhance its committed, client friendly and efficient functioning with better regulated and documented, transparent daily operations, however, WITHOUT making the organisation over-bureaucratized.”
Ten basic indicators to measure how many children and families were participating in its programs were introduced to REF’s monitoring and evaluation unit.Read More
Ten basic indicators were introduced as REF’s monitoring and evaluation methodology to measure how many children and families were participating in its different education programs.
REF published the first in its series of Country Assessments that provided an analysis of the education systems and ongoing education reforms – from the perspective of the inclusion of Roma children – in the countries taking part in the Decade of Roma Inclusion.
REF hosted a major international conference in Budapest in April. Over 450 participants argued for urgent and more meaningful commitments from government and education authorities.
REF closed the year with 39 contracted projects implemented and 24 completed, with 726 tertiary education students supported to attend university, including 83 scholars within the Law and Humanities Program in Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.
REF authors Alexandre Marc and Costel Bercus publish two articles: “The Roma Education Fund, A New Tool for Roma Inclusion” in European Education (Vol 39. No. 1) and “Reassessing the Role of Grant-giving in a Foundation’s Strategy: The Case of the Roma Education Fund” in EFFECT, the magazine of the European Foundation Center and Alliance Online.
The Grand Chamber of the European Courts of Human Rights makes a landmark decision in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic on November 14, ruling “segregating Roma students into special schools is a form of unlawful discrimination that violates fundamental human rights.” REF was referred to in the final judgment several times – an indication of the increased level of acknowledgment of the organization among international professional bodies.
Two REF Programs Included in the 2008–2009 EU Study Visit Catalogue of the European Centre for Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP). CEDEFOP selected REF’s two school desegregation programs, one implemented in Hungary and the other in Bulgaria. Both programs provide quality, desegregated education for Roma students.
The World Bank’s Alexandre Marc became REF’s first Executive Director and joined a staff of seven.
REF established a Hungarian foundation Read More
REF’s Hungarian foundation was established in March.
The Open Society Institute transferred its scholarship program for Roma, the Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program, at that time supporting some 700 students annually, to REF in the summer.
REF, in cooperation with the International Step by Step Association and other education experts, prepared and submitted an amicus brief to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in October to support the plaintiffs in D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic.
REF reported 46 contracted projects and eight already completed since its establishment, with 644 tertiary education students supported to attend university.
REF was registered as a Swiss foundation and opened its Budapest office. REF published its first study, Segregation in the Primary School System in Hungary. Read More
The Roma Education Fund was registered as a Swiss foundation and started operating from its office in Budapest in the spring with the goal of increasing inclusion of Roma children in mainstream education in Central and Eastern Europe.
REF published its first study, Segregation in the Primary School System in Hungary.
George Soros and John D. Wolfensohn, together with prestigious international donors, establish REF at a donor conference in Paris. Read More
A donor conference in Paris in December marked the establishment of REF by eight bilateral donors, private foundations and multilateral agencies committing EUR 34 million over the next ten years. George Soros and John D. Wolfensohn were the two leading founders who lent their passion and vision to the organization.
The prospect of a Decade of Roma Inclusion is discussed in Budapest, and with it the establishment of the Roma Education Fund (REF), at an international conference in the summer. Read More
An international high-level conference of government representatives in Budapest in July laid the groundwork for the Decade of Roma Inclusion and its most visible institution, the Roma Education Fund (REF).