My experience at the APHRC Youth Research Academy

October 28, 2021

By Tedy Ouma, YRA fellow

As undergraduate students in Kenyatta University’s Animal Health and Production program, we are required to choose an area of interest for our research projects. It is often an exploratory journey for most students, and if one doesn’t have a solid understanding of what to look for, it can be a daunting task. This was my experience until April this year. I was reading through my Twitter feed when I came across a call for application by APHRC seeking applicants for their newly launched Youth Research Academy (YRA). The call targeted young people aged 18 to 25 who were interested in learning how to conduct research. This was a fantastic opportunity that I felt would teach me how to conduct research and give me the chance to practice skills I had learned in class. I applied and was among 11 successful applicants from over 2500.

The program was split into two phases. In the first phase, which kicked off online in May, we met and interacted with our instructors, experts in different research fields. We were trained on identifying research gaps and potential study subjects or research topics, data analysis, presentation, dissemination and were put in groups to work on different research subjects. Spending up to eights hours a day with the facilitators is an experience I relished. The contact encouraged even more learning and knowledge sharing amongst both learners and trainers.

Here I was, excited to be learning what most of my peers in class considered a hard nut. To them, as a researcher, you are either discovering something new, making a case for a hypothesis, or improving the “conversation” around an idea. But research experiences by instructors like Dr. Moses Ngari made everything less complicated. By the end of the week-long workshop, I learned new skills on effective research methods and packaging research into usable formats.

The second phase was a physical workshop at the APHRC Campus, which complemented what we had learned so far. It was exciting to meet fellow trainees and facilitators finally. Here, the training included a mix of presentations, group work, and independent studies. We also presented scientific protocols for review and had the opportunity to reflect on lessons and challenges in smaller groups each day. In addition to more formal, lecture-style inputs, facilitators employed a non-formal learning strategy, drawing on the experiences of other participants to assist. At the end of it, we were able to generate research hypotheses, proposals, and scientific study protocols. This experience was one of the most significant and impactful breakthroughs that contributed to my understanding of what goes into research.

Supporting young people to take the lead on research projects promotes their development by broadening their skill set and allowing them to investigate issues that directly affect them. At a time when youth across the continent have to contend with a myriad of challenges related to their wellbeing, initiatives like YRA are critical because they empower us to be part of the solution and strengthen our collective voice where it counts.