My experience of remote data collection

My experience of remote data collection

By Steven Nshizirungu

Remote data collection is a type of data collection method that does not require in-person contact with people. Through remote data collection, enumerators can collect data by voice calls, video calls, or via online surveys. The world has increasingly embraced the usage of modern technology to facilitate international collaboration and the COVID-19 pandemic has further shifted in-person ways of working to remote ways. In this blog, I will reflect on my experience of collecting data remotely on the Voices of Refugee Youth (VoRY) project. I will share three points that I have learned and applied during remote data collection: the overall approach, necessary preparation, and effective communication.

Firstly, the process of conducting data collection in person was totally different from remote data collection. In-person data collection required me to meet physically with participants at school, and this made it easier to arrange meetings with participants who tended to respect the scheduled time. The remote data collection, however, required me to be more flexible so I could get my work done. During remote data collection, every participant would give me their preferred time and I needed to be flexible to accommodate the preferred time for that participant. This is different from physical data collection where you meet with a variety of participants in their locations and once one is not available, you work with who is available while waiting for others’ availability.

Secondly, I needed a sense of preparation. Setting up everything needed to get my work done was a high priority, so I would check the internet connection and power in my phone 30 minutes before the interview. This thorough preparation ahead of my interviews not only helped me to work smoothly with participants, but also gave me the time and opportunity to try and find an alternative when there happened to be a technical issue.

Thirdly, being an effective communicator led me to complete data collection successfully. Communicating to research participants consistently not only helped me to do the work better, but also made sure that everyone involved in the work was informed through the data collection process and felt involved and respected, and the effectiveness in communication made the process smoother.

To conclude, I have enjoyed working on data collection remotely. However, I also found it difficult to set up meetings with participants who had a work commitment and struggled to set specific times for the meeting. The advice that I can provide to future researchers planning to work on remote data collection is to be open-minded, have effective preparation, and have clear communication as the key to the successful completion of remote data collection work.

How to work effectively with youth in research

How to work effectively with youth in research

By Alexandre Irakoze

Based on my personal experience on the Voices of Refugee Youth (VoRY) project, I find that it is very interesting and often more fruitful to involve researchers who are young people in research, especially when the target population is also a younger generation.

After being selected by Jigsaw to be one of the youth researchers in the VoRY project in Rwanda in 2019, I was trained and equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to start my journey as a youth researcher. I started data collection in early 2020, surveying and interviewing young refugee students who were in their final year at a secondary school in Mahama refugee camp to understand the impact of post-primary education in emergencies. This experience has made me realise that using youth researchers to conduct research among young people via a participatory framework has many benefits for the quality of the research, the participants and the youth researchers themselves.

Regarding the benefits of a youth centered approach for the quality of the research, I witnessed that this enabled more objective, valid and credible information to be obtained. Respondents were clearly more comfortable talking with me instead of a more senior researcher.

Additionally, my involvement in this research has also provided the participants a role model, and potentially boosted their future aspiration and performance in class. While conducting a survey with a refugee student in Mahama camp, I asked him about his motivation for continuing into secondary school, and he replied: “you know that we know each other here in the camp. A few years ago, I used to see you going to school like me, but now you are surveying me as a youth researcher. This pushes me to work hard in class and to continue with my secondary studies, even university, in order to contribute to changing the world as you are doing now.” He also mentioned that he had seen many others excel after school, helping him to know that refugee education is not “wasting time” as some might believe.

I, as one of the youth researchers, have benefited and I am still benefiting from the youth-centred research approach: I learned many skills on how to collect, analyse, and interpret data, how electronic devices and platforms are used during data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Being able to lead data collection was also a great opportunity for me as I gained valuable research experience and a sense of ownership of the research process.

Based on my experience so far, I recommend that we should involve young people more in refugee education research by mobilising them to learn from available education research-opportunities and to prove that they can contribute to the positive changes happening in the world.

In brief, I believe that working with young people in research is beneficial and helpful for youth researchers, participants and the quality of the research itself.

Our experience of conducting remote data collection

Our experience of conducting remote data collection

By Kelly Donnelle Iradukunda and Josiane Ntakarutimana

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people across many sectors have had to shift to conducting various activities remotely. For us youth researchers in Rwanda, we have had to conduct data collection for the Voices of Refugee Youth project remotely and experience both the positive and negative effects of the pandemic on research. In this blog, we will outline our experience of remote data collection for the second data point (DP2) of the research study.

One thing we enjoyed the most about collecting data remotely was the ease of setting up appointments with the participants. We found it easier to arrange a time for a phone call than arranging a meet-up in-person at a particular location. This also meant that we could even talk in the evenings depending on the participants’ availability.

Moreover, remote data collection enabled us to access participants who were not located in Kigali for various reasons. We were able to talk to those who got jobs outside Kigali, and those who returned home after graduation. In addition, it took less time overall in comparison with face-to-face data collection.

Although collecting data remotely was helpful, it also had negative sides. The most difficult thing was ensuring the participants would answer our phone calls. Participants could refuse to pick up the phone call even after our initial contact and agreement on a time for a call because they were not interested anymore. It is often the case that we heard from their friends that they had changed their minds and were no longer interested in participating in the data collection. After calling their phones three times to ensure that they had refused to participate, we had to fill out forms saying that the participants were not interested in the data collection.

Another issue was that it was so hard for us to know if the participant was honest or not. This is because when conducting a face-to-face data collection, you can make better judgement based on the participant’s facial expressions that he/she is honest in what they are saying and this was not possible in a phone interview.

Moreover, it was very difficult to arrange focus group discussions because participants had different schedules. This made scheduling tricky because we had to make sure that we met all participants at the same time. Internet quality could make things hard because we could restart a call several times.

In comparison to DP1 (the first data collection point, before Covid-19), DP2 (after Covid-19) felt like a much bigger project. Collecting data remotely was not easy because many people were less talkative during phone calls. Participants found it demanding to hear, at the end of a survey, that there was going to be another key informant interview or focus group discussion. Some of them helped us with the surveys and refused to continue in other parts of DP2.

A piece of advice that we would like to give to anyone else doing remote data collection is that they have to be flexible and patient. This will help the most when the participants do not seem to be interested in the data collection. It takes time to make participants at ease so that they feel comfortable to respond to the questions. While it is difficult to avoid some of the other aspects of remote data collection, we found that being flexible and patient was an important way to make a success of this approach.

Highlights from Unit 3 and Unit 4 of the research methods training

Highlights from Unit 3 and Unit 4 of the research methods training

By Gaëlle Kaze

The Voice of Youth Researchers project
Since the beginning of 2020, Jigsaw, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Refugee Education UK (then named Refugee Support Network, RSN), started “Voices of Refugee Youth: The Impact of Post-Primary Education in Emergency” in Rwanda (and Pakistan). The Voices of Refugee Youth (VoRY) project aims to amplify youth refugees’ voices to understand their perspectives on the education journeys they are on as refugees.

As part of the VoRY project, Jigsaw, together with UNHCR and REUK, has been working with young refugees in conducting research, and this is how our training as Youth Researchers started and we have received training in four stages over the years.

Recap of Unit 1 and Unit 2
I have had the privilege to be amongst other Youth Researchers as I followed the training in person for Unit 1 and conducted interviews with university students who were refugees. For the next two units (Units 2 and 3), we had to do the training online because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Unit 1 focused on quantitative data collection where we learned in training on what quantitative data is, how to collect it, what tools to use and how to design them. We then collected data from student refugees. Unit 2 focused on qualitative data collection, where we learned how to practise Key Informant Interviews, Focus Group Discussions and transcribing. After training, we got to practise what we learned with the respondents.

Learnings and personal highlights from Unit 3
In this article, I want to share my highlights from Unit 3 on the research methods training we received. As mentioned above, from Unit 2 onwards, we completed the training virtually because of COVID-19. It was hard but we persisted and successfully completed Unit 2 training, which then enabled us to finish Unit 3 training on data analysis.

Unit 3 consisted of data analysis focused on analysing both qualitative and quantitative data, writing case studies and visualising data.

Data analysis consists of two phases. First, collected data needs to be prepared: this phase requires the researcher to clean and validate the data, check for informed consent and anonymise the data. The second phase focuses on analysing the data itself. For a good data analysis, there are some principles to follow such as being impartial, being thorough and rigorous and using critical/analytical thinking.

Case studies are used to explore the challenges faced by refugee young people, articulating the successes that happen in their life and the life of their closest friends and relatives as a result of their education and employment journey.

Data visualisation refers to the graphical representation of information and data. Its benefit is to make the data more understandable to the readers. An effective visualisation also requires different phases including cleaning complete data, picking the right type of visualisation to use, being concise and avoiding the use of too many colours.

In summary, Unit 3 was very interesting and also a little bit hard. There were so many new things to learn which seemed difficult and the fact that the learning happened virtually made it more difficult.

However, the practice and the explanation of our trainers helped us to understand more about the unit. During the training, I enjoyed learning about coding and interpreting: it was new to me and before I thought it was hard, but after learning and following the instructions it became easy. And now, months after the training, I still remember how to do it. Also it was the most useful for me because I now use these skills a lot.

The whole unit was interesting because it was all new to me. But the most interesting was the practice of writing a case study.

Personal highlights from Unit 4
Several months after Unit 3, we did the training of Unit 4 which consisted of 2 phases: the online training where we studied through modules and the in person training where we went through the module with our trainers.

Unit 4 covered 3 main components:
● Research deliverables and report writing
● Research presentation
● Research and advocacy

It was all very instructive to me. The most important things I learned in this unit were how to write a research report and preparing and delivering a research presentation.

To conclude, I would like to thank all the Jigsaw and Refugee Education UK team who made me a Youth Researcher and taught me so many things which will help me in the life of a researcher.

The impact of pandemic-related restrictions on education in an urban refugee community from Huye district

The impact of pandemic-related restrictions on education in an urban refugee community from Huye district

By Fabrice Nininahazwe

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has been causing disruption across the whole world, for more than two years, has had devastating effects on the lives of urban refugees from Huye district in Rwanda. It was in March 2020 that, in order to stop the spread of this pandemic, restrictive measures were taken by the Rwandan government. In the field of education, the impact of these pandemic-related restrictions, whilst bringing some opportunities for innovative forms of learning, has mainly caused challenges for refugees.

At the start of the pandemic with the establishment of a total lockdown, all public and private services were closed, and the students, from primary schools to universities, had to return home. Furthermore, at home, many refugee parents lost their jobs and so it was difficulty to feed their children at home. As a result, it was more difficult to support the education of children who spent several months at home doing nothing, and consequently some ended up in a form of delinquency.

For the university students from our community, this pandemic had consequences on their financial capacities because it made the duration of academic years much longer. For students in their final year, the challenge was enormous because they were due to finish their studies at the end of 2020, but they instead had to finish the following year with a loss of one year of teaching. So they not only lost a year of teaching, but they also lost money with additional expenses that were not planned because they were supposed to finish their studies in 2020. Thus, at the start of the lockdown, they stayed at the university to do their research, and at the reopening of the schools, they had nothing left in their budget.

Another challenge which was caused by pandemic-related restrictions was the difficultly of meeting university supervisors because many lecturers were working from home. It is for this reason that many students did not resume their studies as before, because lecturers no longer came to the classrooms daily. Instead, they used online systems such as Microsoft Teams, which requires a high speed internet connection. This caused an additional expense for the students. Due to the poor internet connection of the universities, students were obliged to buy their own internet connection in order not to fail to submit their assignments on time.

Besides that, there were further disturbances in studying conditions. For instance, in the middle of 2021, with the spread of the Delta variant, the Huye campus of UR which houses a lot of refugee students, had to close for a few weeks because there was an area near the campus that was put on lockdown due to an infection increase. After this, the students living in universities hostels were not allowed to leave the accommodation from 6:00 p.m each evening. This had negative effects on the budget of students who were forced to eat in the expensive restaurants inside their campuses, whereas they were previously subscribed to restaurants that are outside the campus at affordable prices.

All of this made university life even more complicated. It affected particularly the budget of refugee students who had to struggle to find financial means to supplement their university scholarships. Students needed to cover the costs of these additional months, but it was particularly difficult to find temporary work during the lockdown, since normal holiday work as a bar waiter or shopkeeper was not available. Additionally, the parents who were the other source of material support for refugee students, were no longer able to support them because the vast majority of them run small businesses in the markets or shops, which were closed from the start of the pandemic. Even after the reopening of activities, only 50% of businesses were allowed to open by alternating. This has severely worsened the economic situation of urban refugees.

Even though this pandemic has largely had a negative impact on education, it is worth noting that there are a couple of positive outcomes to mention. Firstly, refugee students have learned how to use electronic learning platforms. This was so beneficial for the students because not only was it a useful occupation during the period of school and university closures, but also it allowed them to follow online courses via the Coursera program, helping students to obtain certificates for validated courses. Thus, the electronic learning platforms were also beneficial to refugee students because it was a modern way of studying where they can find support from online discussion forums and it enabled them to study and practice whenever they wanted with an unlimited number of study materials. For these online studies, they were supported in particular by the Community Centre of Huye which played an important role in the education of refugee students during this pandemic. It made available for refugee students an internet connection and two computers for those who do not have one. Some of the students also took this period of lockdown as an opportunity of searching scholarships from developed countries.

Moreover, for refugee students who were in their last year of university, the pandemic has given them a little more time to carry out their individual research. They also learnt how to use modern technologies and today they are able to prepare a link and share it with other classmates, when organising an online meeting.

In conclusion, although the pandemic has now seriously decreased and most activities have returned to as they were before, it is still really important to recognise the way the pandemic has caused many challenges for refugee education in Huye and the way students continue to find new ways of learning.

My perspective on education and employment opportunities for refugees

My perspective on education and employment opportunities for refugees

By Christophe Irakoze

One aim of education, as stated in Rwanda’s Education Sector Policy, is “to combat ignorance and illiteracy and to provide human resources useful for the socio-economic development of Rwanda through the education system” (Mineduc Rwanda, 2003). This aim helps us to evaluate the outcomes of education for refugees in Rwanda, specifically in relation to their employment opportunities.

In my community, all children at the age of attending primary school (three years old and above) have access to learning, but the highest level of education for many young refugees is secondary school. After secondary school, the biggest challenge that these graduates face is the lack of financial resources to pay the university fees including a lack of scholarship opportunities that can allow them to continue their studies in Higher Education or undertake technical-vocational courses. Currently, a small number of refugees in my community get scholarships from Maison ShalomDAFI-UNHCRKepler, and Davis College every year. Others participate in manual work to gain some money to cover their daily expenses because the certificate that they get after secondary school is not competitive in the job market.

In my experience, the lack of employment for these secondary school graduates is mostly caused by the lack of technical skills. This is because most of the secondary graduates participate in General Education instead of Technical Vocational Education, also known as TVET. To quote Kendric Charles Babcock (1920) in the book “Education, Technical”, he stated that “Vocational education is education that prepares people for a specific trade. It directly develops expertise in techniques related to technology, skill, and scientific technique to span all aspects of the trade, whereas General education refers to academic introduction to the university. It exposes students to the fundamental ideas and intellectual activities that scholars in the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences draw on in their work”.

Currently, in Rwanda, most job opportunities require technical skills which make young refugees unable to compete with Rwandans on the job market. The lack of these skills or financial support prevents them from starting their own businesses such as welding, sewing, electronic repair workshops, participating in construction, or starting their small shops.

One of the secondary school graduates from Mahama camp whom I interviewed as part of the Voices of Refugee Youth study told me that he want to continue his studies at university because after university he can get a good job. He insisted that in his community, his elders who stopped their studies at secondary school level are jobless. He further stated that even if he wishes to study at university, he does not expect to get support or sponsorship from any organisation.

This problem is shared by many students. They are advocating for organisations like UNHCR to build TVET schools near the camps so that young refugees can have the ability to choose this opportunity. This is viewed by refugees as the most suitable option that could help them to get employed, get access to Science and Technology training or start their own businesses after graduating from secondary school.

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.

Personal highlights from DP2 data collection

Personal highlights from DP2 data collection

By Gentille Gasanabandi

Worldwide, the number of refugees has been increasing due to new crises and the lasting impact of old ones.(1) One crucial way to support refugees to achieve self-reliance and tackle the challenges they face in host countries is through the provision of quality education. The Voices of Refugees Youth study aims to research refugee education in order to generate evidence for informed decision making. In the following paragraphs, I narrate my experience as a youth researcher during the second phase of data collection for the Voices of Refugee Youth study, including the challenges met and my approaches to mitigate them.

Data Point 2 was the second round of data collection for the Voices of Refugee Youth study. It was conducted primarily in Mahama and Gihembe Refugee camps in October, 2021. It involved a survey with several hundred young refugees, evaluating the impact of post-primary education in emergencies. This data point also explored the effect of Covid-19 on these young refugees, in addition to their experience of education.

The first challenge I met while collecting data was the fact that refugees were moving from one camp to another. This happened because their former camp was in a zone prone to natural disasters and was overcrowded, while there was another less populated camp. Due to this situation it was not easy to find certain participants because the easiest identifier in a refugee camp is a home address. The home address became even more important as, after graduating from secondary school, many participants had changed their phone numbers. To mitigate this obstacle, I contacted the UNHCR staff member who was in charge of the relocation process to know which people were due to move last. I therefore started by surveying the latter participants and, when all were moved to the new location, I went there to complete the exercise with the remaining participants.

Secondly, Data Point 2 was made difficult by the fact that our participants who were first contacted in their final year of high school had moved out of the camp to seek jobs. This, compounded with other factors, made it difficult to reach out to some participants. Often, in order to get in touch with them, their schoolmates were contacted; sometimes this would not help and alternatively their parents had to be sought for and asked for the phone numbers of their children.

The last challenge worth mentioning is the impact of some of the students having to change schools. Mostly, this was for reasons that were far beyond the students’ level of education attainment. This is best exemplified by the story of Keza.

Keza is a 20 year old refugee who moved from her camp and came to a school close to Gihembe. When we were interviewing refugee students from Gihembe, we included Keza because she was also a refugee, although from a different camp. Her school expenses had previously been paid by one of her relatives who passed away near the beginning of her last year of high school. She could not afford the private school any more. She was then obliged to move to a public school where there was not the same course which she was taking at her former school. She therefore had to change her major in the final year. Before the year got in the half, her former classmates learnt about her situation and put together their allowances to pay her school fees. This ended up bringing her back to her old school and resuming her course of choice.

Like Keza, there were other participants who had moved between schools and therefore it took me time to get in contact with them. It was, however, worth the effort because these students often were the ones with particularly interesting stories.

To sum up, the second phase of data collection for the Voices of Refugee Youth study was an exciting experience. It had unexpected challenges and responding to them added value and content to the study.

(1) UNHCR (2021).

The importance of research ethics in refugee education research

The importance of research ethics in refugee education research

By Aime Parfait Emerusenge and Aimee Furaha Tuyirate

Research ethics have been a key consideration since the beginning of the Voices of Refugee Youth study. As Youth Researchers, our first training sessions devoted hours of discussions on the topic of research ethics, considering the reasons why we should apply them during the research study. This blog explores the ways in which research ethics play an important role in refugee education research and the way they have been applied by the Youth Researchers during data collection for the Voices of Refugee Youth study.

Research ethics can keep at minimum the risk of harm to participants. There are many potential risks to consider. These include physical harm that participants may undergo as a result of participating in the research such as injury or physical abuse to name but a few, the psychological distress and discomfort which may be caused by the nature of the questions used during the research, the social disadvantage for the participants due to their participation in the research, the harm to financial status due to the financial losses or costs that participants may have for participating in the research, and the invasion of privacy and anonymity when their identity is known by the third parties due to the research. Ensuring ethical compliance can prevent such issues in refugee education research, hence its importance.

Although we did not encounter all the risks stated above, there were some cases which demanded careful consideration. This often happened while interviewing refugee participants and asking potentially sensitive questions about challenges they have faced. One youth researcher shared her experience of this: she interviewed a female participant who became emotional after remembering the way she faced difficulties in completing her secondary education, due to the lack of food, clothes, and other basic school materials. Fortunately, Jigsaw and REUK have trained Youth Researchers in the ways we can both cope with such situations. For example, showing empathy is the main way to solve such issues. Our Youth Researcher paused the interview and spoke with the participant, recognising that the question was sensitive and reminding her that it was not mandatory to answer it. After a short conversation, the participant proposed that the interview should continue. Minimising the risk of harm to participants in this way has therefore remained a priority whenever it was required during this research study.

Research ethics also require the obtention of informed consent from research participants. This is a foundational principle of research ethics. It ensures that every participant understands that they are taking part in the research, and the implications of this participation. A researcher must explain to the participants the purpose of the research, what the research will involve, how the data will be used, and the way the research will likely have an impact. As Youth Researchers, we recognised the importance of this mandatory step. However, the challenge that we both faced during data collection was when some refugee participants only had a short time to participate in the survey or interviews, whether face-to-face or via phone calls. Due to these constraints, they sometimes wanted us to skip the informed consent stage. However, in the interest of upholding good practice in research ethics, we had to explain to them the importance of passing by this stage, so that they could understand everything about the research in which they were participating.

Finally, research ethics require that the anonymity and confidentiality of research participants is upheld. In the case of the Voices of Refugee Youth study, this has meant that Youth Researchers have had to ensure that the identity and contributions of the participants are kept confidential. The one way we have achieved this was to ensure that we meet participants in places that allowed them to speak freely. For instance, during previous rounds of data collection, we had to make sure that the refugee participants (who are students in secondary and higher education) were in a place where the school authorities could not influence their responses. However, it was not easy to ensure anonymity and confidentiality in some situations, due to COVID-19 measures. During this period, Youth Researchers were obliged to collect data remotely. It was therefore hard to know that the research participant was not with another friend that may influence his or her responses. For every situation, however, we did everything we could to ensure confidentiality and anonymity.

In short, during the Voice of Refugee Youth study, research ethics have been considered, and they have proved to be important. There have been situations in which it was hard to apply them, especially during the remote data collection. Nonetheless, as Youth Researchers, we have tried our best to handle these critical situations and uphold the safety of the research participants at all times.

My story so far

My story so far

By Gabriel Karerangabo

My name is Gabriel Karerangabo, a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study in Rwanda. My experiences speak as an example of the way in which education can support refugees to learn, lead and impact communities in a positive way for change. In 2016, I entered higher education, before joining the Voices of Refugee Youth study in 2019 as a youth researcher. This role has increased my desire to advocate for youth, train them and increase their opportunities to grow. This blog is a personal account of my experience in education and employment, and the ways in which the Voice of Refugee Youth project has impacted on this.

In 2016, I enrolled in the University of Tourism, Technology and Business studies for a course in Business Information Technology. As a refugee, the learning conditions were challenging because, although my sponsor paid for my tuition and accommodation fees, I had to support myself for other school and life requirements. Through this experience, I learned to identify a problem and tackle it in order to solve it. I wasn’t the only refugee at this institution; there were other refugees from different locations across Rwanda. I took on a leadership role amongst my peers, and I have sought to advise them to find solutions by themselves and not wait for other people or organisations to bring change for them. My speech for them, as well as myself, was always: you are the change you wish to become.

Despite facing challenges during my educational journey, I believe that education is nonetheless the way forward towards prosperity. In 2019, I graduated from this university and became a secondary school teacher in Rwanda. It was an excellent opportunity where I thought I found stability in life. However, the salary I was getting was not sufficient. I received 150 USD monthly, and while waiting for the salary for the next month, my bank was empty. In Rwanda, houses to rent are costly.

In 2019, I saw the recruitment call to be a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study, launched by Jigsaw and REUK. I was inspired and impressed by Jigsaw and REUK’s mission and vision for education in emergencies, enabling us to be a voice for refugee youth in Rwanda and Pakistan. I took it upon myself to apply to become a youth researcher. Fortunately, I was selected and received the job. Now I am able to be a voice for refugee youth as I wished. So far, I have received training along with the other youth researchers, gained research skills, experienced working in a team, and finally, I have increased my passion for research in refugee education. I have really enjoyed trying to advance my research skills while thinking about tackling the educational problems which refugees face worldwide. I believe that, through research, the key issues can be identified and lasting solutions can be found. As a result, I applied to study for a Master of Science degree, in order to become an African Researcher. I was selected and enrolled in the master’s degree in 2020; I have now completed it in 2022, and I am an African researcher in education-based on technology.

Meanwhile, because I am passionate about refugee youth education, I have applied to be a student at African Leadership University to study Education in the Global Challenges faculty; growing in leadership will also help me to achieve my objective. I will complete my studies in 2022.

Being a youth researcher also opened my mind and equipped me with the skills I needed to start ‘Save the Youth Vision Association’ which works with youth in Mahama refugee camp. The initiative aims to help young refugees in developing their innate talents and potential, so that they can participate in providing more opportunities for refugees in the future. Working with my team, we have assisted students who are completing secondary school and want to go to university, by providing guidance for their application. Some have been awarded scholarships, ready to start their university studies. Now I have hope for the future, because working as a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study has helped me to gain many skills and the confidence to stand firm to find solutions for global challenges for refugees.

In conclusion, working as a youth researcher has had many advantages and provided me with many skills. It has opened my mind to thinking outside the box about my future and enabled me to find solutions to the challenges I was facing. I acquired all of these skills during my experience as a youth researcher, in addition to the knowledge I gained from my university degrees. I have therefore developed research skills to advance my mission towards improving education opportunities for refugees. I have grown to love the research field, and now I am not only a youth researcher, but I am an African Researcher.