The practical experience of being a Youth Researcher

The practical experience of being a Youth Researcher

By Emmanuel Ndayikengurukiye

In this blog, I am describing my journey of being a Youth Researcher as a fantastic way for learning and achieving an improvement in research skills. The process began when I saw the application call for the Voices of Refugee Youth study; it was an exciting opportunity to measure my knowledge in data collection and analysis. Fortunately, having been selected in the cohort of Youth Researchers in Rwanda, I have gone further than acting as a good data collector by learning about data analysis, interpretation, visualisation and the process of writing up findings. This research project has increased my knowledge and given me a positive impact amongst my community and the way I can advise other Youth Researchers.

One impact of being a Youth Researcher has been learning how to plan and organise data collection activities. The first step was to understand the survey, research methodology, ethics and the difference between open and closed questions. To have informed consent for conducting surveys is also very important in order to create a safe environment for participants and the Youth Researchers. Beside this task of being an enumerator, another responsibility of the role of the Youth Researcher is to produce reports regarding my reflections on each data point and being involved in writing up blogs. These skills were supported by the training course; however, attending the training sessions online (due to the spread of Covid-19) needed some basics in ICT skills. Therefore, it was somehow challenging for me due to the lack of strong and stable internet and having enough knowledge in using Google Drive. Nonetheless, I did my best to improve my level in ICT skills. Following the most recent training weeks (Unit 3), I have finally understood how to undertake good data analysis, presentation and reports.

Another impact of the role is being known as an ambassador for the refugee community. At the secondary school in which I collected data, I was respected by research participants and other education stakeholders because some of them considered Voices of Youth Refugee as an advocacy programme for refugees. A researcher is considered as someone who has relationship with donors and is able to do advocacy in order to increase the number of fully funded scholarships for young refugees who are in secondary education. Therefore, during the data collection, I was able to give a good introduction of the possible impact of the research project to research participants, education stakeholders and the refugee community. It was my duty to explain clearly the purpose of the research project at all levels (from the participants to community leaders).

Being a Youth Researcher is therefore a responsibility. My advice to a future cohort of Youth Researchers is that they will have to be neutral in the research process and never make promises through their conversation with respondents. It is important to be data driven and objective instead of being emotional in data collection and analysis; otherwise, you will have biased data and risk misleading the participants.

In summary, being a Youth Researcher has so far been an opportunity for me to understand different key steps in a research project from the beginning to the writing up findings. It is my pleasure to have such an opportunity and to participate to a study for which the main purpose is to explore the impact of post primary education for refugees. I hope that the skills gained in this research project will help me in my future career in the education sector.