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Teen Advisory Group: Remote, participatory and arts-based COVID-19 research with adolescents and young people in South Africa  and Kenya

Social and health vulnerabilities experienced by adolescents in South Africa and Kenya are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Little is known about their unique experiences, challenges and coping strategies. Context-specific, age-appropriate, and social justice-informed COVID-19 research is needed.   

Method:  
This research first sought to determine how to conduct remote, art-based, participatory research with adolescents during COVID-19. Teen advisory group members co-developed a COVID-19 sub-study with researchers from the UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub. In a series of phone conversations, participants (n=8, ages 15-23) advised on topics, methods and platforms for remote research with their groups in two South African provinces.  

Findings:  
Advisors suggested: (1) Focusing on COVID-19-related experiences, challenges and coping strategies using participatory and arts-based methods including writing, pictures, audio and video; and (2) Facebook as a platform which can be used data-free in South Africa and password-protected on multiple devices for adolescents without personal phones.   

An ‘Alien Time Capsule’ concept was designed: “Kind Aliens have come to Earth and want to know what young people are experiencing with COVID-19 so they can help. As Earth’s ambassadors, let’s fill up this time capsule and give it to these Aliens!”. This scenario aims to create conceptual distance and encourage creativity and playfulness. Each advisory group has a virtual ‘Time Capsule’ (closed Facebook group) with weekly activities.   

23 art-based activities have been conducted to-date with adolescent advisors.  

Based on the research tool and call-recording method piloted with this initial group of adolescent advisors, additional semi-structured in-depth interviews were carried out with adolescent advisors in South Africa (n=27) and in Kenya (n=12). 

Discussion:  
Engaging adolescents as knowledge-holders is a powerful way to inform context-specific, social justice research during COVID-19. Adolescent advisors are well-placed to co-develop research questions, tools and methods that are responsive to their own contexts, interests and needs.  

Partners: 

Accelerate Hub
Interfer
UKRI
GCRF
NIH
MRC
ERC
SSHRC
University of Cape Town
University of Toronto
University of Oxford 

Team: 

Dr Lesley Gittings (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Dr Elona Toska (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Sally Medley (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Nokubonga Ralayo (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Shameem Bray (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Professor Lucie Cluver (University of Oxford & University of Cape Town, United Kingdom & South Africa)
Jenny Chen (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
Nabeel Petersen (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Angelique Thomas (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Yusra Price (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Natasha Kannemeyer (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Professor Carmen Logie (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
The Accelerate Hub adolescent engagement & participation team (PI Professor Lucie Cluver) 


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