“Maybe, you can promote me?”
You’ll hear these words a lot if you spend any time in Kenya. Taxi drivers, hawkers, safari guides, etc. For the most part they just want your business at that moment, not necessarily for you to “promote” them to the world. But now I want to do a real promotion for anyone out there who is looking for a research assistant for doing work in Kibera.
As you may know, I’ve been in Kenya doing research in Kibera and Mathare on individuals and groups that are producing media in Nairobi’s slums. I planned to do some interviews with Kibera residents following the screenings of Togetherness Supreme, but I wanted to hire a research assistant for two reasons: first, my Swahili is poor and my Sheng is even worse and second, in my experience, some people will tell me what they think I want to hear rather than what they really want to say. I thought by having a fellow Kibera resident conduct the interviews, respondents would be more likely to speak freely.
Genesis Njeru Ngari has experience doing interviews from working on his book project, he can speak fluently in English, Swahili, and Sheng (and he’s been adding some German to the mix), and likes to meet new people. So I thought he’d be good at the job, but I was still really impressed at his skill and professionalism. I drafted up a questionnaire, and then the two of us met so Genesis could make suggestions and help me with the question phrasing. Then during two movie screenings, Genesis went around and recruited participants, making sure to get a good mix of men/women, old/young, etc. For the first 5 interviews, the two of us worked together, doing the interviews in tandem. Once Genesis got the swing of things, I let him take over. He did the rest of the interviews (34 in all) in 4 days, calling each respondent and setting up times and locations to meet. During the interviews, he switched back and forth between Swahili, Sheng, and English depending on the interviewee’s language of choice, but he always made sure to immediately translate any non-English responses for my benefit. He also made good clean audio recordings from my digital recorder, so transcription has been easy (well, as easy as transcribing ever is).
So if you’re looking for someone to help you with your research, I could not recommend Genesis more. You can contact him through his website, or you can comment here and I’ll put you in touch with him.