About the Roma Education Fund

The Roma Education Fund (REF) is an international foundation established in 2005 and dedicated to the formal education of Romani people. With an active and growing network of representative offices across Central, Eastern, South Eastern Europe and the Balkans, REF provides grants and scholarships to entities and individuals who share its belief in quality, inclusive education and desegregated schools and classrooms.


We aspire to live in a world in which the right to education is regarded as undeniable for every Roma child and youth, and educational opportunities and practices are equitable for all.


REF’s mission and ultimate goal is to contribute to closing the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma. In order to achieve this, the organization supports policies and programs that ensure quality education for Roma, including the desegregation of education systems.

The foundation promotes Roma inclusion in all aspects of the national education systems of countries that have continued to support their
commitments made during the Decade of Roma Inclusion from 2005–2015.


In order to develop and deliver our education programs that provide quality, inclusive education for Roma children and youth, we believe in five core values that join us together and that mirror the work, actions and ideals of our organization and its culture:


We need to work hard and not give up if we are to remain forward-looking and optimistic anout the changes we want to achieve, both within the society and within REF. We hope to inspire this value in our beneficiaries, as well as in our partners with whom we collaborate.


We need to display outwardly what we expect from each other and of others. Moral and ethical principles guide us in what we do and in the feedback that we seek from others. We demand it from our partners and scholarship recipients, too.


Learning requires that we seek evidence, including disconfirming evidence, to support decisions that we and our stakeholders make. Good quality research and advocacy require that we ask the hard questions of ourselves and of others.


We operate with transparent procedures and are ready to disclose results and share information with the public, our donors and beneficiaries.


Education is a right, essential for the development and achievement of one’s full potential.

Models Shaping REF Interventions

REF has extensive experience and knowledge surrounding the types of interventions in and approaches to Roma education. REF currently structures its grants around five good practice models for achieving impact in different countries and policy settings.

Embedding effective models for Roma education requires strong partnerships with national and local education authorities and implies intense communication with them throughout the process of adjusting best practice models to national and local contexts.

Model 1

Expanding Access to Preschool Education: Early Childhood Education

REF’s early childhood education model aims to improve the school readiness and early childhood development outcomes of Romani children under age six by improving the enrollment and attendance in the mainstream preschool services; enhancing the parenting skills and improving the practices of Romani parents; strengthening the link between parents and preschool and kindergarten facilities; and raising the quality of early childhood education services, such as teaching and learning methods.

Model 2

Avoiding Early School Leaving in Primary Education

The primary education model intends to improve the primary education outcomes of Romani children aged between six and fourteen by supporting primary education enrollment and school-after-school programs (tutoring and mentoring) with improved access (enrollment) to primary education, preventing early school leaving, enhancing parental skills, and strengthening the link between parents and schools, providing remedial classes to children and offering professional support and guidance to school staff and authorities.

Model 3

Expanding Access to Secondary Education

The secondary education model aims to improve the academic performance of students and to maintain the retention and graduation rate of Romani secondary school students through better outreach, provision of scholarships, school-based mentorship support and tutorship support.

Model 4

Expanding Access to Higher Education: RomaVersitas

The RomaVersitas model intends to improve the retention, performance and graduation levels of Romani full-time tertiary education students by providing them with academic tutoring and mentoring and to help strengthen their Romani identity and community participation. This model consists of compulsory and optional components. It serves as a bridge for young Romani scholars and includes scholarships, mentoring, tutoring and additional training in professional development and foreign language competences.

Model 5

Second Chance Programs for Adult Functional Literacy and Formal School Completion

The adult education and training model aims to improve the education level and employment prospects for young Romani adults. It provides those with incomplete primary and/or secondary education with tutoring and financial support for completing formal primary and/or secondary education. This model also aims to improve the literacy and social communication skills of illiterate and semi-literate Romani parents (mainly mothers) of preschool- and school-age children and enhance their involvement in their children’s education through provision of non-formal literacy and social communication skills trainings.