The Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer-Dienst (KAAD) Association of Scholars of West Africa (KASWA) has held its annual conference in Navrongo, the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region.
The KAAD, also known as the Catholic Academic Exchange Service, is based in Germany and offers academic scholarships for higher academic studies in Germany at the Masters and PhD levels.
The three-day conference, which brought beneficiaries of the scholarship together, was on the theme, “Building a healthy and peaceful society amidst a pandemic.”
Dr Marko Kuhn, the Head of the African Department of the KAAD told the Ghana News Agency at the conference that Ghana was one of their important focus countries. “In fact, in numbers, it is the leading country in the whole of our organisation from all the countries we are dealing with worldwide.”
He said even though products of the scholarship were lecturers in most of the Universities across Ghana, many of them also worked in Non-Governmental Organizations, and in other professional fields.
“So we are in different areas even though lecturers are the majority, we have some in the World Health Organization and other development agencies. Sometimes we also have some few artists who enrich this country with their arts,” Dr Kuhn said.
He said there were about 250 alumni from Ghana in strategic positions who contributed to the development of the country in diverse ways, adding “University education must be for everybody. It should not only be accessible to those who can afford the fees.”
Dr Vincent Kyere, the President of the KASWA, said brilliant but needy students were identified and supported to pursue graduate studies under the programme, “They give stipend to the student and help even in payment of fees. Some do their studies in Ghana and others also go to Germany for their studies.”
Reverend Fr Clement Aepengnuo, a Catholic Priest and the Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies in Damango, addressed participants on the need to build a society of peaceful co-existence and the role scholars could play in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said to build peaceful co-existence, there must be respect for human dignity, “If we don’t respect the dignity of people as human beings, we cannot have peace. These are Catholic scholars, and they have the church’s teachings to rely on.
“We need to transform our relations and our structures if we want to live in peace. We have certain structures that are violent and generate conflicts. For instance, the land tenure system generates conflicts so whether we like it or not, within that structure, there will be conflicts.”
Reverend Fr Aepengnuo said as scholars, they had a lot to contribute to the ways challenges and problems of conflicts could be addressed. “Very often, people are in conflict but don’t even understand what they are fighting about.
“Defining the problem of conflicts is important and with that, we need academics and scholars like these, in their research, studies and teaching to be able to help the system,” the Executive Director said.
Ms Marian Abrafi Osei, a Senior Dietitian at the KNUST Hospital in Kumasi who spoke on the role of good nutrition in improving human health said food should be taken as medicine in the era of COVID-19 and urged the scholars to regularly exercise.