For the youth, by the youth: My experience at the APHRC Youth Research Academy

October 28, 2021

By Miriam Ngarega, YRA fellow

I remember the excitement when I received the call informing me I had been selected to join the Youth Research Academy at APHRC. Boy, did I land a good one! You see, my journey to becoming a scientist had started, and I was beside myself with palpable joy. I always thought to myself that there couldn’t possibly be a more rewarding journey than one aimed at finding solutions to global problems through research. My journey in research had just been unlocked. 

Soon after, the program kicked off and for the next couple of days, we were immersed in rigorous training on research methodology. We covered the breadth of research methodology from research ethics, conceptualizing a research problem, doing a literature review, design methodology, analyzing data, writing proposals, and even publishing.

We then embarked on coming up with researchable problems — this felt like the real science: identifying problems in the community and finding scientific solutions. I must say this was a challenge. The number of articles that we pored through to come up with something resembling a concept note was — overwhelming! Thankfully, we had an amazing team of mentors who walked us through the entire process. Just like a child is taught how to walk, at first they can barely stand, then they stand but are wobbly but finally, they make their first step. Such were our mentors, listening to our ideas and shaping them to a concept note, and finally, we had a protocol. We were now walking, baby steps but, still progress.

The Youth Research Academy is still in its infancy, and so are we, the trainees. The dream of becoming a globally recognized scientist is no longer far-fetched. There was hope, hope brought by the Academy. Our academic training institutions teach so much of the theory and less of the realities in our societies. Closer home, the youth have problems. Substance abuse, mental health, reproductive health are all issues that young people, especially those in low-and-middle-income countries, are grappling with. If these problems are to be addressed, we must also be at the core of finding the solutions. 

Being part of this team made me realize the immense potential we have as young people to generate evidence that translates to better policies and positive change for us. Through such, we are an inch closer to youth-led research. 

I laud the efforts of all who were involved in shaping our minds, from the team that conceptualized the Academy to the very resourceful mentors that we had along the way. Scientists will be born out of these efforts. And so, prepare to read our papers on Nature!