For a long time it seemed that Germany could only help students who had fled once – the Leadership Scholarship Program for Syria was launched in 2014/15. It ended in 2019, when the last of the 221 scholarship holders (funded by 21 NRWs) finished their studies.
Although the war in Syria continued to rage and new danger zones for students were revealed, for example, in Turkey, the program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was not initially continued and expanded.
But now the Federal Foreign Office is funding two new programs for international students that are also intended to be long-term. The Hilde Domin program will initially support 50 students and doctoral candidates “who are at risk in their home countries and cannot continue their studies or research locally” (data from DAAD can be found here).
The plight of students in Belarus
In addition, Tagesspiegel has learned from DAAD, a successful start to leadership for Africa, which will be officially announced on Monday (DAAD information on the program here).
The determining factor for the release of funds for the Hildae Domain program – 8.6 million euros by 2027 – was the urgent need of Belarusian students, which the German professional associations, scientific institutes and universities mentioned in the petition. Many young Belarusians have been forcibly deported, imprisoned and in some cases already deported.
Like the teachers who were persecuted by the Lukashenko regime, the students have already arrived in large numbers at the German university, the Vyadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).
Poet Hilde Domin was forced into exile in 1933-45
“In the first year, we are focusing on Belarus and helping where it is most needed,” Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Mas (SPD) said at the start of the program in the middle of the week. It is named after the poet Hilde Domin (1909 to 2006) of Cologne, who could not return to Nazi Germany after studying abroad in Italy because of his Jewish origins.
She moved to West Germany from the Dominican Republic in 1954, enabling her husband to receive a DAAD scholarship at the time.
The new version of refugee assistance for students differs in many ways from the leadership of the predecessor program for Syria. On the one hand, it already includes students who do not yet have a bachelor’s degree.
On the other hand, you cannot apply directly to DAAD for the Hilde Domin Scholarship, but you must be nominated by a university or organization active in science, research and teaching or protection of human rights, promotion of democracy, governance. Law or peace building.
Both programs are planned for the long term
The model for this is the Philip Schwartz Initiative (PSI) of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for Endangered Researchers, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office. And it also applies to the duration of the Hilde Domin program: like the PSI from 2018, “it is designed to be sustainable,” says Christian Hullshorster from DAAD. Despite the tense budget situation of the federal government, everyone concerned agrees in principle.
“We expect a strong response and it would be great if we could finance more than 50 students a year.” Despite this year’s focus on Belarus, the Hild Domain program is open to students at risk worldwide – with the exception of the European Union and the European Economic Area.
On the other hand, the Leadership for Africa program is similar to the previous program for Syrian students in that it ensures that those who have a master’s degree return to their home country.
There they are to take a leading position in restructuring or stabilizing their scientific, economic and social life – a plan that did not work for Syria because of the ongoing war against its own people. Undergraduate students can apply directly to DAAD for the Africa Program.
Leadership for Africa – for refugees and natives
However, leadership for Africa is open not only to students fleeing the African continent, but also to “nationals”, that is, locals in the host countries. The first round, for which the election took place 14 days ago, is funded by refugee students or current students from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan – for a postgraduate degree from a German university.
The program is initially funded with 2.5 million euros per year, a second round for East Africa and one already underway for West Africa, says Christian Halshorstar. Gradually, leadership for Africa will be exposed to other regions.
Out of 510 applicants – 109 of them recognized as refugees – 51 students from the mentioned countries have now been selected in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). From the coming winter semester, undergraduate graduates from 19 refugee and 32 citizen classes will begin at German universities.
The DAAD service organization supports them in finding the right course through the well-known complex enrollment process and learning the German language through Uni-Assist. This also applies to guests of the Hilde Domin program.
The common denominator between the two groups is that – like the Syrian leadership – they are involved in a coherent program, including courses on understanding democracy, the rule of law, and sustainable economic and social development. Christian Hullshorstar says the idea of bringing together students from both groups is currently being considered.
Bachelor and postgraduate scholarships are funded at a basic DAAD rate with a basic amount of 861 euros, in addition to health insurance and personal family allowances, as well as rent allowances for large cities. The basic fund for the doctoral scholarship is 1250 euros.
Just over a year ago, Jayabrato Mukherjee, of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), said in an interview with Tagesspiegel that he was discussing a new program “for a full range of target countries with donors” based on leadership. For the Syria model.
Progress has now been made and it is hoped that both projects will reach their target groups and indeed be funded in the long run.