Lena Leumer, Director of the DAAD Information Centre in Accra (Ghana)
What are the major changes in your job due to the Corona situation?
The office is closed and we are all working from home. Work for the DAAD has become a lot less because events cannot take place, delegations cannot travel etc. We are offering more information through webinars and online consultations.
I am still teaching at my university in Ghana but via WhatsApp or a web platform.
The lockdown in Ghana has been lifted on Monday, but it is still very likely that the virus will be spreading faster in the next weeks.
How does Covid-19 affect your work with your international partners, students and staff?
International travel bans have basically put everything on hold. Students from Ghana who are already in Ghana are working from home as much as possible, they were also given the chance to travel home but mostly decided to stay. Ghanaians who are supposed to travel to start their studies or research now are waiting for the situation to change. The embassy's visa section is closed, too, so no visa will be processed. The DAAD is trying to make sure long-term scholarships can be postponed instead of cancelled. Short-term scholarship programs have been cancelled. Projects funded by us are mostly on hold for now although cooperation does continue through the internet.
Everyone is talking about the negative effects of the Covid-19 situation. But, what are the positive effects? Are there any?
The progress in the efforts to further digitalization of teaching is visible even in Ghana. Most universities have set up more or less functional online learning platforms and telecommunication companies have been convinced to whitelist some of those platforms to make them accessible for all students. There are still shortcomings here, but the effort is impressive compared to previous use of online/distant learning in the regular study programs. International research cooperation as such is seeing unprecedented efforts to cooperate internationally to fight COVID-19.
How does the future look like? What are your hopes? What are you wishing for?
We hope that financing for international cooperation in higher education will not be reduced too drastically when efforts to rebuild economies will become the main focus after the pandemic. And we hope that the pandemic will not damage the economy in Ghana to the extent that the number of international students will be diminished too drastically.