by Bethany Sikes

Around the world, education has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Voices of Refugee Youth research study has had to adapt to the disruption and delay caused by the pandemic. This update provides an overview of these adaptations.

The virus has closed schools and universities in both Pakistan and Rwanda, as well as preventing international travel for the Jigsaw and RSN teams. Indeed, data collection for the second data point was underway by the Youth Researchers in Pakistan when educational institutions were closed, and therefore data collection could not be completed. At present, data collection has re-started in Pakistan and is paused in Rwanda until it is safe to resume and schools and universities have reopened. 

The most significant adaptation to the research study is the timeline, as data collection and the research methods training for the Youth Researchers has been interrupted. The research timeline has been adjusted to accommodate this and to ensure the same rhythm of data collection, as originally proposed, will take place. The Jigsaw team is in close contact with UNHCR field officers to ensure we are fully aware of the situation in Pakistan and Rwanda. As a result of the closure of schools in both Pakistan and Rwanda, the research has recently been granted a no-cost extension. 

We are aware that the spread of Covid-19 has altered the global education context in many countries, including both Pakistan and Rwanda. This has the potential to alter the broader context within which the data is being collected, leading to possible inconsistencies and challenges in comparison. However, we plan to mitigate this challenge by working with the same Youth Researchers who have been trained and by ensuring all data collection tools are consistent to build a comparable dataset.  One consideration for our research timeline is that the Ministry of Education in Rwanda has taken the opportunity  to adjust the academic calendar over this period, meaning that our participant cohort will be re-taking  their academic year and requiring us to extend the data collection period by the same length of time in order to adhere to the original methodological approach and ensure data integrity and comparability.

Work on the Voices of Refugee Youth study has continued despite the closure of schools and universities. The Youth Researchers have been writing blog posts and developing content for this website. The Jigsaw and RSN are working on developing the research methods training modules and analysing data from the first data point. 

The health and wellbeing of the Youth Researchers and the study participants is of paramount importance to the Jigsaw and RSN team. As such, any decision to restart data collection will be done carefully and in line with national guidance from the Ministry of Health.

In the coming weeks, you will be able to read first-hand accounts written by the Youth Researchers of the experience of Covid-19 in their country and the impacts on refugees and refugee education.