PADA Holds Virtual Seminar for Doctoral Students

The Pan-African Doctoral Academy (PADA) of the University of Ghana has held its maiden virtual seminar since the lockdown for all University of Ghana doctoral students on the 23rd of April, 2020 on the theme “Feed your Focus as Researchers: Practical Options amidst COVID-19 Crisis”.

The programme was chaired by Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Director of PADA and was facilitated by Prof. Yaw Oheneba Sakyi, School of Continuing and Distance Education; Prof. Esther Sakyi-Dawson, Department of Nutrition and Food Science; Prof. Justice Bawole, Dean, University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) and Prof Joseph Osafo, Head, Department of Psychology.

Speaking on behalf of the Chairperson, Dr. Collins Badu Agyemang, Ag. Coordinator of PADA noted that the goal of the maiden virtual session was to motivate PhD students to keep a positive attitude in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and to keep all PhD students afloat. Even though COVID-19 is increasingly stalling the progress of many activities, PhD students were encouraged not to allow COVID-19 to place their scientific research into hibernation. “PADA, in our bid to ensure research continuity, has outlined a number of programmes to support all PhD Students” he noted. He urged all Doctoral students to maintain their focus as that is a key element in the pursuit of a PhD degree. Dr. Agyemang commended all 156 participants comprising 76 males and 80 females from 58 different departments for their heartwarming response to participate in the maiden virtual seminar.

Prof. Esther Sakyi-Dawson, Department of Nutrition and Food Science in her presentation, urged participants at the writing stage of their PhD work to keep at it with the end goal in mind; avoid the cycle of boredom by ensuring that they were fruitfully engaged; introduce structure by writing down a daily timetable and give themselves tasks to complete. They were also encouraged to educate family members to make them understand the need for uninterrupted time for work, evaluate the outcome at the end of the day or week and make adjustments where necessary. She also urged participants to share their tasks with their supervisors or colleagues to help keep them accountable; form cohort teams/support networks to support one another and make maximum use of technology for effective communication.

Taking his turn, Prof. Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, Founding Dean, School of Continuing and Distance Education, admonished participants to practice the attitude of continuous learning and to take as many free online courses as possible during this period; be ready to learn, be self-motivated and digitally literate. He advised UG Doctoral students to constantly check their emails as important information is sent out especially from the UG Library. They were advised to keep abreast of the steps the University was taking to help students. Doctoral students were encouraged to visit the newly created Sakai Project Site as often as possible.

Prof. Justice Bawole, Dean, UGBS urged participants to manage the relationship with their supervisors by defining a clear communication approach with their  supervisor; agree on which mode of communication will work best for them; agree on specific timelines of engagement with the supervisor and when to expect feedback on work that has been submitted. With respect to their finances, participants were to clearly identify what their priorities are and spend wisely, limit their spending and also avoid making financial commitments that will affect their finances with regards to the PhD work.

Prof. Joseph Osafo, Head, Department of Psychology indicated that PhD work is not a matter of life and death. He counseled participants to use discretion in deciding whether to go ahead with data collection or not. They may decide to hold on for a short while with the data collection if it pertains to focus group discussions while assessing the development of COVID-19 crises. During this period, participants could shift their focus to another chapter of their work like the literature review, or even draft a paper out of their work for publishing.

Participants with family were advised to put a structure in place for their children; one that mimics their schedule on a normal school day. All doctoral students were encouraged to be adaptable to changes and accept that things have changed so as to make good use of the time. “Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Check on one another and strengthen yourselves to the finish line” he noted.

Speaking on behalf of the Director, Dr. Collins Badu Agyemang acknowledged that PADA was aware of the many mental health implications of COVID-19 on doctoral studies and students. This may range from stalled progress of their work, delays in submitting final thesis, job loss or grant loss or reductions. Many graduate students may experience stress, frustration, anxiety and may exhibit some symptoms of depression. PADA had therefore put together a Psychosocial Support Team (PADA-PST) to lend support to all UG Doctoral students who may need psychosocial support during these crucial times.  The team, he noted, is made up of mental health professionals including Social Workers, Clinical, Health, Community and Organizational Psychologists. He urged the doctoral students to make full use of the available support provided them.

Dr. Agyemang also informed participants that PADA had made arrangements with UGCS and created “PADA Scholars Home Project Site”. Doctoral students were encouraged to register and access resources shared at this project site. He also announced that PADA will continue to virtually run “Chat the Mentor Session” held on the last Friday of every month. He disclosed that PADA Management was working at putting strict protocols in place so as to re-open the Doctoral Building for use by all PhD students.