Sustainability of the Secondary School Scholarship Program for Roma - Dimension of Cooperation Between Government and Civil Society

Government experts in education and civil society organizations from nine countries gathered in Belgrade on 12-13 June 2018 to exchange professional intergovernmental know-how on the implementation of the large scale Secondary School Scholarship and Mentoring Program (SSMP) for Roma students under the joint project of the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Roma Education Fund (REF).  

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Regional cooperation, both in bilateral and multilateral context and implementing projects derived from regional cooperation in particular, is the uttermost instrument for delivering the first priority of the Serbian foreign policy, which is to one day join the EU. This project has all of these – it makes a society better, more efficient, and, above all, it brings long-awaited justice' - said Andon Sapundzi, Deputy National Coordinator of Central European Initiative for Serbia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sapundzi also emphasized the role of REF as an institution which presents a regional beacon for the noble effort in overcoming the educational gap which still exists between Roma and non-Roma students throughout Europe.

Azra Junuzovic, Deputy Director of REF, informed the audience on the progress made in the project implementation, as both ministerial and civil society representatives were able to exchange their experiences on supporting Roma students through mentorship and scholarship programs.

'Through the project REF developed a monitoring tool which will enable us to collect more reliable data and, as a consequence, to follow the progress of students and design better interventions that suit the needs of the particular target group. REF has also prepared training modules for mentors which will offer a unified set of standards on the quality of mentorship' - Junuzovic added.

Deputy director Azra junuzovic speaks at CEI know-how exchange event in Belgrade June 2018Deputy director Azra Junuzovic speaks at the CEI Know-How Exchange in Belgrade.

During the event the governmental experts in education and the representatives of the REF grantees received training insight into well-functioning visibility practices, as well as in gender mainstreaming among the SSMP.

In order to showcase the sustainability of the model, Arabela Iljaz from the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) spoke of leading practices in managing the Secondary Scholarship Program in Macedonia, i.e. the model was adopted by the national education system (as of August 2016 the Roma secondary scholarships entered the Law on students’ standard, art. 54). It has been recognized as an additional benefit that project-based support for students for all vulnerable groups has become an integral part of the IPA 2 programming period 2017-2020. As an adjunct, the project coordinators are now recognized as civil servants within the MoES, Iljaz added.

Participants discussed pressing matters and challenges in addition to the successes. Has the SSMP model been efficient in all beneficiary countries? What are the further challenges? How do civil society organizations define their sustainability towards the stakeholders, partners, potential donors, and society at large? Low transition rate from primary to secondary education was underlined as a major challenge of the program, as well as the frequency of dropping out among high school students with lower GPAs. The complicated application procedures for upper education REF-supported scholarship schemes were also mentioned as a possible impediment.


The civil society organizations from all participating nine countries pointed out the positive outcomes, such as high retention rates, 95% secondary school completion rate, and the impressive share of secondary Roma scholars who continue to university. The p
rograms targeted 3,672 students with scholarships: 1,663 of them received mentoring, while 1,429 received tutoring support.