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Survey enumerator training in Nyanza

Today is the second day of our enumerator training here in Nyanza province. On Sunday, we interviewed about 13 candidates, and selected 8. The candidates were very smart, sharp and had good responses to our questions about how they would address the challenges of our work. The four men and four women arrived Monday morning – we are having them stay in the same hotel with us (myself, our project manager, Jessica, and our field coordinators, Ruth – a UCLA Ph.D. student, and Richard – a Kenyan with a great deal of research experience) so that they will not need to travel very far each day. Some of the enumerators live several hours from our base, and with public transportation, they may need to transfer to 3 or 4 different buses or matatus to get here. For about $12/day, we can house and feed everyone here

We completed a long day of training yesterday, and I introduced them to our project, went through our ethical human subjects guidelines, and practiced the most difficult aspects of the questionnaire. It took a little while for some of them to warm up, but when I asked them to dramatize possible respondents — including a man being interviewed by a female enumerator, and then his wife walks in, upset that he is talking to a woman – everyone warmed up and had a few good laughs. By the end of the day, everyone had a good idea of our goals and strategies. Unfortunately, one enumerator didn’t work out, so we are down to 7, but that will be fine. I am very lucky that all of Ruth, Jessica, and Richard are such outstanding managers, making everything go very smoothly, and clarifying points when necessary.

This morning, we started again at 830am, and when I asked if anyone had any questions from yesterday, several of them raised a number of excellent concerns. Our survey concerns household dynamics, and the ways in which parents care for their children. We need to be specific about who lives in a household, and we define a member of a household as a person who “eats from the same pot.” But they asked, what if a child is away at a boarding school? Is that individual still part of the household? That one is tricky because we are interested in the choices parents make about schooling, but our expectations for parent involvement should be different if the school is located far from the village. Also, what if a man inherits a wife, and sometimes lives in a house and eats with that family, but also spends time in the house of another wife? When we asked about the time it takes to get water for the household, one enumerator asked if this included the time to get water for livestock. It’s been a lot of fun talking through these questions, and they reflect how smart the enumerators are, and they anticipate what they will find in the villages. We will do our first enumeration exercise in a nearby village this afternoon.

At the moment, while the enumerators are practicing the questionnaire in Luo, I am sitting with my laptop under a little thatch-roofed rondovel/table (obviously writing this post, but also doing other administrative work…). The weather is beautiful, and I can see a dozen uniformed school children playing soccer, er, football, with a very weathered ball, laughing and having a lot of fun.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.

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