“We want to change the lives of our students and influence the rhetoric around Roma education.” This is how Zuzana Balážová of the Slovak Centre for Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) describes the ‘You also have a chance’ project. The project is helping Roma students access third level education at the University of Economics (EUBA) in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, by providing free courses, scholarships or extra coaching. Last year, four Roma students from disadvantaged backgrounds received support. All successfully passed the EUBA admission exams in June and enrolled this September in the Faculty of Economic Informatics (Ján Lakatoš and Lucia Bílá) and the Faculty of Business Managment (Mária Sándorová and Tomáš Horváth). “It was a great opportunity for me to get high quality preparation that my family would never have been able to afford,” said Ján Lakatoš.
Slovakia is home to one of the densest concentrations of Roma communities in Europe, many settled in deprived ghettoes hampered by poverty, low literacy levels and discrimination. The gap in educational attainment between Roma and non-Roma is huge. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, just 16 % (compared to 90 % of the Slovak population as a whole) of Roma have completed upper secondary education. The figures are even starker at tertiary level. Only 0.3 % have finished university. Problems start early with Roma often penalised by poor pre-school opportunities. Many are inappropriately placed in ‘special schools’ for children with physical and mental disabilities, or ethnically segregated.
The project has received a grant of € 85 000 from the EEA Grants NGO programme. It covers two main strands: firstly, mapping the educational needs and barriers experienced by Roma young people, and secondly, creating partnerships with schools and universities to provide incentives for Roma students to continue their education.
© eeagrants.org, 2015
The article was published by the EEA Grants – Norway Grants web site in the section News/2015.