International meeting of Roma health scholarship program
Support program for the Roma students in medical universities and colleges (Roma Health Scholarship Program), which have so far been implemented in Romania and Bulgaria gives a real chance for formation a new generation of highly qualified Roma medics involved in the cause of Roma health integration. The success of the program so far is undisputed and is due to the links of the received students’ scholarship with their participation in a special advocacy camp in the field of Roma integration and interaction with mentors who support their academic achievements. From 2010 the programme will expand in Serbia and Macedonia.
These were part of the conclusions from the international meeting organized in Budapest on February 17 and 18. Partner organizations involved in the implementation of Roma health student scholarship program took part in the meeting. It was organized by the Open Society Institute(OSI)-Budapest (Roma Health Project) and Roma education Fund. Bulgaria was represented by Open Society Institute (program coordinator), Promedia (implementer of the media component), “Diverse and Equal” Association (component “Mentoring”) and Center “Amalipe”(conducting component “Advocacy camp”). The other participants were organizations implementing the program in Romania, as well as the future artists in Serbia and Macedonia.
During the meeting the participants discussed the experience of previous implementations of the various components of the program, its strengths and weaknesses and the lessons learnt. It turned out that in both countries (Romania and Bulgaria) most of the students initially had a problem with their Roma identity, or at least its recognition- because of fear of discrimination by fellow students and professors. Participation in advocacy camp appeared to be key for overcoming this fear: during the camp students were acquainted with the Roma history and culture and formed themselves as a group of advocates strongly engaged with Roma integration. Daniel Radolescu from organization “Sastipen”-Romania told about the 2008 and 2009 advocacy camps and the change among students towards the realization of their Roma identity. Deyan Kolev from Center “Amalipe” pointed out that the advocacy camp in Bulgaria helped timid students to become active Roma advocates who are aware of their responsibilities; he demonstrated this by presenting a short film about training, prepared jointly with students.
Active interaction of Roma students with their mentors (teachers from the respective universities or GPs) resulted in high academic achievements of students: for example Romanian Roma students have already made their theoretical publications in international scientific journals and two of them received prestigious Erasmus scholarship.
Participants made conclusions about the necessity of further interaction among various components of the program: scholarship, participation in advocacy camp and follow-up advocacy activities, interaction with mentors for achieving high academic results. In 2010 preparatory courses for Roma youth who wish to apply in medical universities and colleges will be organized. The meeting ended with discussion about the sustainability of the program and debate how it can be extended by means of structural funds and national budgets of the respective countries.
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