EPAfrica is constantly striving to improve the way that it works, and one way of doing so is through research into relevant topics, carried out by its volunteers. This is an exciting opportunity to perform original research in the field and to better understand how we can improve education in East Africa.
EPAfrica’s ethics approval procedure
In order to facilitate high quality research, EPAfrica requires that the research it supports is carried out to a high ethical standard. Therefore any volunteer wishing to do undertake a research project in association with EPAfrica, in an EPAfrica school, or whilst based in EPAfrica accommodation must obtain permission to do so beforehand by completing the ethical review process. This applies to project researchers, as well as to any other volunteers (coordinators, project managers, project workers) who wish to undertake any sort of research over the summer.
We invest in schools and the local community, and this means we must be very careful to ensure that our role as a donor does not influence whether or not potential participants give consent to be involved in research projects. Even if you plan to conduct research before or after your time volunteering with EPAfrica, we ask that you seek ethical approval as you will still be seen as a representative of EPAfrica, even if your volunteer role has officially ended.
The review process will help you to refine your research aims and methods, and will make sure you are equipped to carry out your research in an ethical way. You may need to prepare documents such as consent forms or information sheets to give to participants, and you will need to consider any risks associated with your research (both to yourself, the charity and to your participants). Our experienced ethics committee and research workstream will be on hand to guide you through this process. In order to give time to the ethics committee to review and approve your proposal, you must submit your proposal by the end of April at the latest.
Develop your research idea
February - April
Work closely with the Research Workstream lead to make sure your research is relevant and appropriate to EPAfrica’s work. Have a look at the ethics approval form – and even start to fill this in – as this will help you to structure and flesh-out your idea.
Complete ethics form
February - April
You will be assigned a member of the ethics committee to help you design your research proposal and fill out the ethics approval form. They will guide you on ethics best practice, and the risks that you will need to consider. This process will help you to refine your research methods and to do the necessary preparatory work for your project – for example you may need to make a research consent form and/or an information sheet to give to participants.
Submit ethics approval form
You must hand in your ethics approval form by 30th April at the latest. Beyond this date we cannot guarantee that you will be granted ethics approval before the start of the summer. You should submit with this form any accompanying documentation, e.g. consent forms, information sheets.
The ethics committee will endeavor to review your proposal within 4 weeks. During this time, they may ask you to adjust your proposal and/or accompanying documents in order to comply with our ethics requirements. You should have approval by 1st June, in order to carry out your research over the summer.
Frequently Asked Questions
I already have ethics approval from my university – do I still need to get approval from EPAfrica?
Yes, even if your project has received ethics approval from another institution, we still need to make sure your project complies with our own ethical requirements. You will likely be able to use the materials from your university process – for example any consent forms – and you should hand in your proof of university ethics approval to our ethics committee, along with your EPAfrica ethics approval form.
Can I use my time with EPAfrica to do my own / dissertation research?
EPAfrica is happy to support research in East Africa that is relevant to our mission. You should discuss your idea with our Research Workstream Lead in order to determine whether it is something EPAfrica would be able to support, and you may need to make sure your produce an output that EPAfrica can use – an academic thesis is usually not useful for us; rather we are looking for recommendations for how we can improve our work.
If you intend to do any research before, during or after your time volunteering with EPAfrica in or around the areas that we work please contact us in order that we can establish if your work will need ethical approval. If your research involves interaction with an past, present or potential EPAfrica partners we need to ensure that their consent to participate is not compromised by your affiliation with EPAfrica, a donor organisation.
I have an idea for a research project but I have missed the deadline for ethics approval – can I still do my research?
After the deadline we cannot guarantee that you will get ethics approval, and without ethics approval you cannot undertake research in East Africa. However, you should speak with our Research Workstream Lead, and depending on the nature of your research and the time left before the summer it may still be possible to obtain ethics approval. However, we strongly prefer that you meet our deadlines – our ethics committee are all volunteers with full-time jobs, and reviewing research proposals takes time.
Once I have approval, what should I do with the outputs of my research?
You should write into your proposal how the outputs can be used by EPAfrica, and how you will disseminate your results. A useful output for EPAfrica is typically a summary of your research and your main findings, in addition to some recommendations on how your findings apply to our work and how we could improve what we do. We may ask you to present your findings at our summer debrief. We may also ask publish your work on our website.
Teacher training opportunities
Last year our main research project looked at teaching in Kenyan schools. A team of three researchers with experience of teaching in the UK looked into the barriers that teachers currently face in Kenya, with a view to identifying whether there is a need and an opportunity for EPAfrica to get involved in improving teaching and learning.
This year we would like to further explore some of the findings from this research by putting some pilots into practice. Example interventions could be the provision of training to teachers on the use of technology or on teaching methods, or whether the provision of materials for improving the learning environment or equipping teachers with a bigger tool-kit of options.
We would also like to expand this research to look at Ugandan schools in order to understand how the challenges and opportunities in Uganda compare with those in Kenya, and therefore to better tailor our approach and potentially even share examples of best practice between the regions.
Using technology to support teaching
The role of technology in education has changed dramatically in recent years. Several of the schools we work with now own computers, and most students are connected through mobile phones. With ever more schools also having an electricity supply, and with good 3G coverage in both Kenya and Uganda, we want to explore whether and how we might incorporate technology into our work.
This could involve exploring how schools are using technology at the moment, what barriers they may face, and how technology could be used to improve learning (and contribute to our other goals) in a way that is faithful to EPAfrica’s principles of investment and sustainability.
How do schools differ? Understanding technical, vocational and/or farm schools in Uganda
Since expanding our work to Uganda we have found that a number of schools there have a particular specialty, being either technical, vocational or farm schools. Last year we worked with one technical school, and now we want to explore how these more specialised schools differ from the more traditional schools we’ve been working in.
This research will help us to determine whether we could further expand to work with more of these types of schools, and how we could adapt our work to better incorporate their needs.