Levie Nkandu Tembo

Experiences faced during data collection

It is significant for a researcher to have the knowledge of the possible challenges that may be experienced during the period of data collection. A study titled “An Impact Assessment of Agriculture Education: Competences, Knowledge and Skills of students from Zambia” is being carried. A descriptive research approach was undertaken as the study aimed to collect qualitative data from the respondents and provide the status quo on the particular subject matter. In collecting the data, study employed the use of questionnaires and interview guides. These research instruments were administered to three target groups under study. These target groups involved the students (N=100), graduates (N=50), and the employers (N=20). The students that participated in the study were selected from the two universities that were identified to provide agricultural education in Zambia. There are 10 universities in Zambia and only two of these universities, that is, the University of Zambia and Mulungushi University, provide agricultural education. The respondents under each target group were selected using purposive sampling due to the fact that the researcher had no other option but to select respondents that were affiliated with agricultural education.

Just like in any other research studies, challenges were experienced during the period of data collection and a number of these challenges were the same across the three target groups under study. Among the challenges experienced by the research study, one challenge was the restricted allocated time. The researcher had to travel to Zambia and collect necessary data that was needed by the research study. The questionnaires requested and required for appropriate information for the research study hence most of the respondents took quite long to complete a single questionnaire (one questionnaire took about 20-30 minutes to be adequately completed). The researcher had to collect primary data that was qualitative in nature from a number of students from the two universities in a very short period of time. Geographically, the two universities’ location presented to be a challenge as the two universities are distantly located. The two universities are located in two different provinces in Zambia. The University of Zambia is located in the Lusaka province which is the capital city and Mulungushi University is located in the Central province. There is approximately 450 kilometres between the two locations hence access to the two universities presented a challenge.

Generally, a majority of the students showed some reluctance as data collection was conducted during the exam period. This was one of the challenges that resulted into not meeting the sample size that was expected. There were also a number of circumstances when the respondents particularly those with a number of personal activities failed to make for the appointments for the interviews with the researcher after facilitating all the meeting arrangements. They were either out of school or merely altered their mind and turned away straightaway to participate in the research study. In this regard, the researcher had to schedule for an appointment for a second round. Further, extreme challenges were encountered in acquiring permission from the two universities to carry out the data collection process within the university premises but this was controlled for by assuring the pertinent university personnel’s that the research was purely conducted for academic purposes. 

The study as well gathered data from the university graduates as well as the employers. Regarding employers, a majority of the commercial farms refused to take part in the research study minus making an appointment and more or less of the commercial farmers gave obscure responses and feedback. Some of them failed to provide information concerning the aspect of agricultural education skills and competences due to the fact that they feared that the information provided might work against them such providing it to their rivals. Some of the employers were reluctant to provide data due to the fact that the bylaws of their companies or farms inhibited them from revealing it to the researcher especially that which concerned with the returns on investment and something to do with the workforce. In some instance, the researcher had to solicit for employer replacement so as to meet the planned number of respondents. On the other hand, graduates were extremely willing to take part in the research by sharing information, however, they had a challenge in retaining some of the information as some of the respondents had been graduates for quite some time. Respondent’s failure to retain some of the information and provide it to the researcher was a challenge in all the respondent’s workplace.

It was as well a challenge to find an adequate number of respondents for graduates as some of the graduates targeted were sceptical about the research and since some workplaces dominated the others in terms of workplace empathy. In some cases, the graduates were under different forms of employment such as permanent and contract. The research observed that those graduates under the permanent type of employment were more willing to participate in the research as compared to those under contracts. In those farms where there were contract employment, it was difficult to access the relevant information due to the fact that they feared to cause agency problems with the owners of the farm.

Further, the researcher would like to thank the university and tropical faculty in particular for wanting to invest so much in research work in developing countries. My trip to Zambia wouldn’t have been successful if the faculty did not give the mobility fund.

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