My craziest DirtPol week! by Anne Kirori

I never thought selecting of a sample for research would be tedious and an exciting experience until I finally did it. I am working with 2 pilot schools, Dandora Secondary and Shree Cutchi Leva Patel Samaj School. Dandora Secondary is a slum school while Samaj is a private upper end school. Having received authorization from the school heads to carry out the exercise, I set a date of June 16th and June 19th with the teachers. I needed them to be involved right from the start. My idea was to use random and purposive sampling techniques, using three major categories which are:- high, middle and low achievers in the school. We had used this criteria as an example during the social research training at Sussex and I wanted to apply it here. Dandora Secondary is a 4 streamed school with 50 students in each class. On the other hand, Samaj School is a 5 streamed school with 40 pupils in each class. This makes a total of 200 students from Dandora and 600 in Samaj School from which a sample was selected from. On the D-DAY, I decided to start with Samaj School for selection of 7- 9 years old sample. Upon arrival at the school, I found my 200 children from year 2 (7 years only) waiting for me. They had been told to gather in a hall. The teacher introduced me to the children and then handed the ball to me. I explained my reason for being there and a summary of the DirtPol project. I made it clear that it was a voluntary activity and people should feel free to leave if not okay with being part of the project.

It was tough coordinating this huge number. Some were kicking, shoving, pushing, pinching, and biting one another. At some point there was a cry or two from the soft ones. The teachers assisted greatly in maintaining order and peace. I first started by dividing the whole group into high achievers, middle and low achievers. The children were not aware of the criteria, the teachers assisted in this process by providing me with the academic records. We did not want the children to know so as to avoid intimidating them. At this point some children from the 3 groups opted out and we again informed everyone that it was okay to leave if they felt not interested. The rest assured us that they were okay to proceed. I now had 3 groups of 50 pupils in each group making a total of 150 pupils. I arranged them in a straight line and had them count 1,2,3,4…till 10 and then they would start counting again from 1,2,3…10. I then picked all the fives which were ten of them and had their names written down on a piece of paper. I clearly explained that I could not work with all of them at that stage, and that I only needed a representative sample. I also mentioned that I could add more to the group at a later stage. I could see sad faces looking at me and for some it was too much and there were ‘baby cries’ from 4/5 of them. This was a low moment for me but the teachers did their best to help the situation. This group was only of the 7 years only. I did the same exercise to year 3 (8years) and year 4 (9 years) using 200 pupils in each to select a sample of 10. The total then for 7-9 years group was 30 pupils. This exercise was done an hour before lunch since the 7 years old study till lunch time and then they are picked by their parents/guardians. As we were finishing, the parents were streaming into the schools and into the hall to pick the pupils. I had a good opportunity to explain what was happening to a group of parents and for those whose children were selected, they were happy with the idea.

Samaj School as an institution runs from kindergarten to college level. This means I could have 2 groups in the school. One group for 7 -9 years and another for 13-15 years old. I then organized another selection day for the 13 – 15 years old group which was carried out successfully using the same procedure. This age group is easier and tend to be more organized.

As for Dandora Secondary, the same criteria was used. In this case only the form 1 were involved. This is because all students in form 1 are either 14 or 15 years old. The ones who were not lucky to be selected in the random selection exercise, begged to be included in the group. I had a difficult time saying a tough ‘NO’ 😐 . I then took sometime with my new sample, just to get to know them better and to get their individual voluntary and informed consent. Together we planned the various activities they would want to get involved in like debates, songs, FGDs e.t.c and finalized by thanking them for participation and selection and setting a date for the next exciting DirtPol meeting.

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