By Noor Ullah
I have been part of the Voices of Refugee Youth research study for the last 2.5 years. This blog outlines my story as a youth researcher so far.
The story goes back to the time when I had no idea about the research study. I first got to know about it through a close friend: he told me that there was a work opportunity with a research organisation based in the UK. I decided to apply to it for experience and monetary benefits, and later got to know that the role offered much more than this. So I applied and got short-listed, had an interview and passed the interview as well.
At the beginning, the instructors came and we (the group of youth researchers in Pakistan) started our initial two weeks training regarding the study, the objectives, our roles and the final outputs.
During this time, we learnt more about the study’s importance. We discussed that education research can empower research stakeholders through the data it produces: with the findings, it can better clarify our purposes to teach, lead and spend effectively, improve processes and priorities when introducing change, and also make informed decisions, which ultimately leads to making a very positive impact in education. Moreover, through better education we can support young people in society, and these persons have the potential to make decisions that will ultimately impact communities – both locally and globally – in a very positive way.
During the training, the instructors were very helpful and open to ideas. They were interested to hear from us what we refugees have in mind, welcoming new ideas and suggestions. After the training sessions for Unit 1 and learning the foundational research skills, we were askedoput these skills to practice. We visited different schools and universities, conducted a survey and interviewed participating students, listening to their stories and challenges they face. Subsequently, we have had two other training units and data collection points, DP2 (Data Point 2) and DP3. These all built on previous skills that we learned.
We spoke to a lot of students in different secondary schools and universities during data collection. Through this study, we got to know more about my fellow Afghans students’ experiences, heard their voices, and learnt about the challenges they face. These difficulties include barriers within the admission process, poor quality education, or a lack of learning resources and tools.
However, simply hearing these voices is not enough: conveying and building solid evidence and presenting this evidence to decision makers is important. That is what we – the youth researchers and Jigsaw/REUK in partnership with UNHCR – are doing, to make sure the voices of the voiceless are heard.
It was always my dream to make a positive impact and contribution to the Afghan refugee society where I belong, but I never had the required knowledge to know where to start from. The Voices of Refugee Youth study has really paved the way for me: what better way than education, through research and a proper understanding of Afghan students’ needs, can help in making that childhood dream of creating a positive impact and change for our war affected community a reality. I am therefore very excited to be part of this research study.