“Youth as Researchers” Arab States Teams Embark on Research to Unravel and Address the Impacts of COVID-19 on Arab Youth

UNESCO’s Youth as Researchers (YAR) program, officially launched on 4 December 2020, is an initiative by youth, with youth, for youth, where youth in every region of the world are researching the effects of COVID-19 on their fellow youth.

Following a competitive process, two Arab teams were formed. The 1st team is exploring the various forms of digital and civic action undertaken by Arab youth, who increasingly establish new ways to “navigate and reinvent a different sense of community during the pandemic,” stated the team leader, Ghida Krisht. The research, therefore, seeks to explore the degree to which these digital and civic activities, to which Arab young adults resort to, help them cope with the challenges resulting from these unprecedented times when “restrictions are the norm and complying with physical distancing is expected,” added Krisht.

The team was the first, among a total of 40 YAR teams representing all 5 UNESCO regions to have its proposal approved by the YAR Ethics Committee, and have move ahead fast, distributing their research survey through a variety of outreach channels including mailing listservs and social media.

“We are quite zealous about the results…we found ourselves overwhelmed with responses. We have received over 1000 survey responses, the majority in Arabic, the rest in English, and achieved representation from all 22 states in the Arab world,” said Krisht.

Furthermore, the team undertook more than 20 in-depth interviews with Arab youth to gather further information on their civic engagement in a diverse array of areas, including but not limited to: humanitarian services, mental health, accelerating inclusion for youth with disabilities such as blindness, medical/public health, expressive art with a message, debate/dialogue/knowledge, development/self-expression, and social and economic development. The team finalized transcribing these interviews and were able to record common themes and sub-themes.

The second Arab Team is presently awaiting the approval of their proposal by the YAR Ethics Committee. The team has taken on a unique perspective for investigating the challenges and impact of COVID-19 on youth, focusing on one of the pandemic’s most defining feature: The learning process being switched from face-to-face mode of instruction to online/distance learning.

“The pandemic urged governments around the world to adopt preventative measures in order to decrease the spread of the virus, forcing educational institutions to change from conventional education methods of classroom teaching into distance/hybrid learning,” stated Michael Beshay, team leader. In particular, the team aspires to explore questions such as “how students are adapting to online learning; whether they like it; and how it affects their academic performance and mental wellbeing,” are all questions worth investigating, according to Beshay.

He further added that these should be answered through different data collection tools, such as online surveys and interviews, both of which will aim for undergraduate and graduate students in the Arab States region.

The team expects to find numerous disparities in the use of technology and accordingly its adaptation amongst university students in various Arab States: “Findings of this study can potentially guide policymakers in Arab countries to identify best practices of technology use in university education settings, highlight challenges related to training in technology use, examine the effect of these challenges on students’ mental health and wellbeing, and provide groundwork for future researchers studying education systems during the pandemic,” stated Beshay.

Once the team receives the Ethic Committee’s approval of their proposal, they will be able to disseminate their questionnaire, conduct interviews, collect data, analyze it, and write their research findings and policy recommendations. As both teams further advance with their research and have findings to present, more updates will be available!

We want to recognize all the youth researchers from the two Arab States Teams and commend them for their hard work. From Arab States Team 1, we have Adel Kabbara Allababidi, Sundos Hammad, Amany Mahfouz, Safa Elsaharief, Shaimaa Barakat, Fakhri Jayyosi, Ghida Krisht, and Ammar Hadeed. From Arab States Team 2, we have Saad Uakkas, Islam Qadous, Sondos Khattab, Sana Bukhari, Michael Beshay, Mahmoud Abdel Khalek, and Emtethal Omar. We thank them all for their efforts to engage with the program and for being committed to producing meaningful results.

This article was prepared through contributions from the Youth as Researchers Communications Team member, Christine Mounir.


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