The DAAD launched a new scholarship programme “Leadership for Africa” in 2021 with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office. The programme supports master’s degrees for scholarship holders from several Subsaharan African countries at German universities. Each year the target countries both in East Africa and West and Central Africa will be announced prior to the call for application.
A master’s degree programme is often a great challenge for refugees from African countries – but it can also be a great opportunity. The programme intends to contribute to the education of future leaders, who will be essential for the further development of their home countries.
All “Leadership for Africa” scholarship holders benefit from a complementary training program in good governance, civil society, and career development. This year, young refugees and national scholars from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will be considered to study at higher education institutions in Germany. This will be the third intake.
We got a chance to interview successful recipients of the Leadership for Africa Scholarship Programme, one male Kenyan citizen, Peter Diang’a, now studying in Osnabrück, Germany, and two female refugees, Luwam Tesfai from Eritrea who was living in Ethiopia at the time of application and now studying in Berlin, and Fardowsa Muhamud, from Somalia who studied in Uganda and is now pursuing her master’s in Magdeburg.
This is what they had to say:
1) First of all, congratulations on getting the DAAD scholarship for “Leadership for Africa”! How did you find out about the programme, and why did you apply? Can you also say something about your academic background?
My desire to study for my master’s abroad started in 2018 upon completing my Bachelor’s. I did my undergraduate at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, studied Purchasing and Supplies Management, and graduated with honours (2014-2017). I have always wanted to look for a new challenge in a different place far from home. Along the way, I have had countless rejections concerning scholarship applications, but I kept my head up! My ambition drove me to hang in there.
Like many social media-savvy young men, I actively enjoy engaging through social media, and a while back, I liked DAAD Kenya’s Facebook page. In September 2020, I came across a post by the DAAD on my Facebook wall. It talked about a newly launched scholarship programme by the DAAD under “Leadership for Africa.”
It is my nature always to confirm the authenticity of any information that interests me – getting this information pushed me to dig more, eventually doing more searches on the DAAD website, specifically, the DAAD Nairobi one. I read all the requirements on the Webpage, and my decision to apply was based on the scholarship perfectly fitting my ambitions.
Thank you. I have always been interested in continuing my education. It was my dream to gain more knowledge and proper training to practice in my profession. However, I wasn’t able to do that for so many years. But I have never given up on my dreams. I guess no dream dies if its flames are kept alive. My cousin told me about the program and recommended that I apply. It was hard for me to get a scholarship at that time because of the age limit of other scholarship programmes. DAAD “Leadership for Africa” scholarship programme on the other hand had no age restrictions and supports refugees. I did my bachelor’s in Educational Psychology from EIT (Eritrean Institute of Technology), College of education in 2010.
I found out about the scholarship programme through an organization I was working for at NRC Uganda. I was working in the education department, and they recommended me, especially as a refugee student, since it was the first time DAAD was offering a master’s scholarship for refugee students.
Opportunities for pursuing higher education for refugee students are scarce, especially scholarship opportunities. I remember I applied when the deadline was a few hours to closure, but my motive for this scholarship was a dream come true. Since DAAD allowed other refugee students and me to make our dreams come true, I applied to expand my knowledge and career in social work.
I have a passion for humanitarian work, and I have always dreamt of pursuing it up to higher education. I am now pursuing a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies, and once I complete the studies, I believe I will positively impact my surroundings and create a peaceful world through my knowledge and voice.
I studied public administration for my Bachelor’s degree, specialized in NGO management, and graduated with first-class honors. After my bachelors, I wanted to pursue my master’s immediately, but due to financial reasons, I had to start working hard to save for my studies. I also had other family obligations to take care of. In the two years, I managed to work with great NGOs like IOM, NRC, and RSC Africa on refugee projects, which gave me the experience to prepare me for my future goals. And now, thanks to the DAAD Leadership for Africa Scholarship Programme, I got the opportunity to study at one of the great universities in Germany.
2) You are now pursuing a master’s in Germany. How did you find the study program, why did you apply for it, and how was the communication with your University?
Peter Diang’a (Master’s in International Business and Management with a major in International Management at Hochschule Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences):
I used the DAAD website under the “International Programmes” to search for suitable study programmes in German public universities. I chose the programme because I needed a course offering something extra, both contentwise and structure-wise. The course coordinator was significantly helpful and always responded to my numerous inquiries without hesitation. The communication was mainly through email. Now I feel settled; the school supports international students, including providing accommodation.
Luwam Tesfai (Master of Arts in Mind and Brain – Track Mind at HU Berlin):
I found the programme on the Uni-assist website. Uni-assist is a platform where students from all over the world can apply to German universities. HU responded very swiftly after receiving my documents from Uni-assist and was very supportive.
Fardowsa Muhamud (Master’s in Political Science, Peace and Conflict Studies at Uni. Magdeburg):
This program is so unique and exciting as few universities offer this course. I can say I am among the lucky ones that got admission. It is so international; we study conflicts in different parts of the world, analyze them, and create peace-making projects that the world needs, considering the current situation of the war between Russia and Ukraine and the scare of World War III.
I study with more than 30 nationalities in my class. I personally originated from a country that has been going through war and conflict for more than three decades now. My country Somalia motivated me to learn more about peace and conflict, and I hope I can make a great project in the near future to make a difference in the situation of Somalia.
3) About your successful application, can you provide information for potentially interested parties on what is essential for the application? How did you experience the application process? How was the interview?
First, read through every requirement from top to bottom for the application, and look at what you meet versus what you do not. It is important to assemble all the required documents before starting the application process; it will save you time and increase your chances of shortlisting. Secondly, ensure your documents are validated to make your application authentic. The authenticity extends to the application to the university as well. I attended more than ten web seminars at the DAAD Nairobi office, which equipped me with a lot of information, mainly because the web seminars addressed all the questions I had. I took two months to assemble my documents, including writing a motivation letter and CV, which I believe play a significant role in determining who is who in the selection process.
Interviews are never pleasant experiences, but I prepared very well in advance from my side. I had no idea what kind of questions to expect, but to my surprise, though the interview was not easy, it went well. One secret is to maintain eye contact and smile! It was a pleasant experience because I felt satisfied with the input at the end.
There was no interview with the university, but had to submit certain documents. The programme is an English programme so, a sufficient English language requirement had to be fulfilled. Another requirement was the work experience in the area of the study in which I was working at Fountain of Knowledge as a school counselor in Addis Adada at the time of my application.
You should know your aim and objective of applying for the scholarship and have a clear strategy or goal because the most critical thing the interviewers and the selection committee look for is what makes you outstanding from other applicants. Even though I applied close to the deadline, I was straightforward with the reason I was applying and what I wanted to do with my master’s degree. My experience with the interview is to be well prepared and confident; that is what makes the interviewers more interested in your concept.
4) Now you are in Germany. How was the arrival, how was the start of your studies? How do you feel in everyday life and at university? What is different in Germany – compared to your country of origin?
I am in Osnabrück state of Lower Saxony, Northwest of Germany (always raining here). My journey was fascinating, but I experienced some delays with the flight connection to Osnabrück. As a result, I arrived at my flat very late. My school provided an extraordinarily kind and caring buddy to assist me on arrival and accompany me to my residence. I must admit it was a challenge in adapting, especially during the winter semester. Besides, attending online classes honestly needed quite some adjustments. Being open-minded has helped me in fitting into the system.
My programme is very international, with diverse students from different parts of the world, so I am doing perfectly well at the university. Everyday life is different, sometimes you are very jovial and highly motivated, and sometimes it is just those days. Germany is highly structured, and everything requires you to be aware all the time. For example, making an appointment is an essential aspect here. Whereas in Kenya you can wake up and go and register your bank details; here, it took me a whole month to get my banking credentials.
Generally, I enjoy the efficiency of the German system!
My arrival in Berlin was safe and sound. Finding accommodation in Berlin can be a little hard and is understandable as Berlin is a big city and a cultural hub. Compared to Eritrea and Ethiopia, Germany is safe. The transportation system is easy and accessible. As a woman, this gives me the liberty to travel without fear and accomplish more.
Lectures in Germany can be a bit different than back home. Here, classes are more like a discussion and student-centered. This gives the students an ample opportunity to share new ideas.
The arrival at Magdeburg was not easy, I had issues with the accommodation. I advise students to start looking for accommodation as early as possible. I also had challenges renewing my travel document since it expires in one month. For refugee students who travel with German travel documents, it is hard to finish city registration, open a bank account, and book an appointment from the immigration office within that one month before the document’s expiration. So I suggest giving future students a more extended period, at least three months, to help them settle and have a valid travel document that can make it easy for them to do the processes.
My everyday life is so exciting and straightforward. I made new friends here. We study together and do practical work like projects at the University. I never had this opportunity during my bachelor’s in Uganda. Here, I have access to high-quality and quantity study resources and materials. I also like the adventure part – so far, I have been to different cities in Germany, and I have had the opportunity to discover significant historical places. I cannot compare this to Somalia because I did not live there for most of my life since we fled when I was 6.
5) Would you like to report on your experiences with the DAAD?
DAAD has been highly responsive to making our life better in adapting to Germany. The initial help with the registration fee waiver at the foreign office, some deduction of semester fees for DAAD scholars, and the ongoing DAAD events provide a good platform for networking since each scholar is in a different city.
The DAAD “Leadership for Africa” team was very supportive of our preparations for departure to Germany and assisted us to settle well after our arrival too. We had our initial meeting back in March in Cologne in the “LEAD” kick-off workshop conducted by the University of Cologne as part of the “Leadership for Africa” scholarship programme.
DAAD administrators are so helpful; they have always been responsive on time and have helped me to prepare for my journey. Even though I had difficulties obtaining my travel documents, they ensured I arrived in Germany by the start of my semester.
Also, the LEAD programme for leadership for Africa by DAAD is a great opportunity for a student like me who is interested in contributing to the SDGs of Africa. So far, my experience is beyond expected, and I am happy with the communication flow by our DAAD responsible personnel.
I also got the honor to attend the Brussel event of team Europe for higher education in emergencies with our head of the Leadership for Africa Programme, Ms. Gudrun Chazotte, represented the DAAD scholarship holders, and shared my experience.
Through DAAD, I also get networking opportunities to meet the experts and daad alumni who share their successful and great experiences with us, which has motivated me to be more ambitious in achieving my goals.
6) What are your future plans? What do you want to do after your master’s degree?
Under the LEAD programme, my long-term goal is to focus on one of the SDG goals, sustainable cities, and communities. My short-term plan is to finish my master’s studies. Upon completion, I would like to focus on my career development with a keen eye on sustainable logistics in Kenya or Germany. This agenda aligns perfectly with my focus area, and I look forward to cooperating with DAAD, Kenya, and the Federal Republic of Germany to make it count in the end. Additionally, I would be glad to give back to society by engaging in alumni activities under DAAD to mentor and encourage prospective candidates to pursue their dreams and desires.
As an Eritrean refugee, I have experienced life in refugee camps and understand how access to proper health care can be difficult, especially access to mental healthcare services. I would like to work on projects related to refugees around the world. I also would like to encourage and empower women to have dreams and that no dreams are left broken. And hopefully, one day go back to my country and serve my people.
The violence and injustice women suffer during war crises is also a matter I am concerned about. I want to work with the UN on refugee projects in East African countries. I am also aiming to create an NGO that empowers women in conflicting societies since gender equality is one of the SDGs given less attention in developing countries and war-affected countries.
We wish you all and all other Leadership for Africa Scholarship recipients all the very best in your studies and for the future!