Being part of the SARiHE project team has been an exciting, eye-opening, humbling and challenging experience.

The excitement has been on hearing the conversations of the students about their rural-urban trajectories in higher education institutions. As indicated by almost all the students that when they first accepted to be part of the project they did not know how the project would add value to them. Actually, some of them came on a trial and error basis. After six months of being part of the project, they confessed that the project was of real value to them as it helped them to reflect and come to the realization of the wealth of their rural experiences. As one said, “…helped us discover a lot about ourselves”.

I was truly impressed by the level of commitment and enthusiasm of students throughout the project. In the beginning, I was anxious of how we will manage to ensure commitment of these students for the entire six months. Despite of the fact that some had to choose between attending class or the project session (especially for the Science students) they still maintained an impressive level of commitment by either sending an apology or willingness to attend make-up sessions.

The humbling experience is when after hearing their stories and the struggles they go through, you wish you could do more. Especially when some of them would become so open about their deep personal lives and how they manoeuvre – one specifically shared with me in private how he has to survive with R500 rand a month! It is at this point that I actually had to go beyond, buy a few groceries for him, and try to get him a part time job. These experiences truly humbled me and made me reflect on how to ethically conduct research and not in an excavating manner but in a manner that cares and empathizes with research participants.

By Hellen Ochuot – PhD candidate, University of Johannesburg, Research interest: socially just pedagogies
30 November 2017