By Simon Peter Kibira
In 2013, I was a member of a three-person team from Makerere University selected to participate in the DHS Fellows Program along with four other teams from African universities. The DHS Fellows program is designed to increase the capacity of countries to conduct further analysis of DHS data. Over the course of two intensive, yet enlightening, workshops, DHS staff mentored and encouraged us in our research endeavours.
The first workshop in Uganda focused on technical skills in using DHS data. The workshop consisted of various technical sessions that allowed participants to learn survey data analysis skills from the DHS researchers, to exchange research ideas among Fellows, and to hear about former Fellows’ experience working with DHS data. The second workshop, held in Kenya, focused on writing our working papers. We refined analysis, addressed reviewers’ comments from DHS subject experts, and polished our final drafts.
The hands-on experience of working with DHS data through further analyses was such a remarkable experience. The DHS facilitators and co-facilitators provided one-to-one assistance that made working through dataset challenges much easier. We had sessions where we listened to each team’s presentation about research findings. It was amazing to see how much we evolved over the course of two workshops to be able to positively critique each other’s work from very informed viewpoints. In my own perspective, we were turning into “DHS experts.”
Apart from the working paper, the workshop facilitators organized us to visit DHS implementers in Uganda–the Uganda Bureau of Statistics–through which we had a better understanding how DHS data were collected. We were also encouraged to disseminate our fellowship paper further through conferences and peer-reviewed journals. My team’s work resulted in three presentations at international conferences in Uganda, South Africa, and the US, and a peer-reviewed journal article. After the Fellowship ended I collaborated with other faculty at Makerere University, including a 2012 DHS Fellow, on a new study using DHS data. We recently published our findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
Further, we were encouraged to use DHS Program materials for capacity building trainings at our institutions. It is fulfilling to see that data collected nationally can be fully and properly utilised to benefit African university students and researchers, but also bring out results beyond what is published in DHS survey final reports. The onus is on all Fellows to take an extra step to ensure vital recommendations from published papers are utilised by health programs.
I am proud of the invaluable collegial network I have among the DHS Fellows. I know future collaboration can be based on such networks in different countries and universities. These are immeasurable benefits beyond the one year fellowship.
When the DHS Program asked me to co-facilitate the 2014 fellowship, my decision was a no-brainer. Aside from helping teams, I learned a lot as a co-facilitator from the Fellows. It was also very fulfilling to see Fellows’ papers in the DHS working paper series.
The mark the fellowship program has left on my academic and research career will endure throughout my career. The DHS Fellows program is an experience every early or mid-career professional in research and academia will find rewarding. I hope many more people from DHS countries will benefit from the DHS Fellows program.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 DHS Fellows Program through December 1, 2014. Applications must be from teams comprised of three faculty members from the same university who teach in departments of demography, public health, economics, sociology, geography, or other social sciences. Applications are only being accepted from faculty members at universities in Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, or Zimbabwe. Read more>>
Simon Peter Kibira is an Assistant lecturer at Makerere University in the School of Public Health. He started his career at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in 2006 as a regional supervisor in the implementation of the 2006 UDHS. In 2008, he joined the faculty at Makerere University and in the 2011 UDHS he was part of the external team from the School of Public Health that did quality control during data collection. He authored the chapter on Family Planning in the 2011 UDHS final report. Simon is a 2013 DHS Fellow and co-facilitated the 2014 Fellows workshops. He is currently pursuing further studies in International Health at University of Bergen and part of his study is based on Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey data, inspired by his participation in the 2013 DHS Fellows Program.