Elena Suckling: “The learning experience was invaluable”

Elena Suckling is a third-year BSc (Hons) Geography and Environmental Management student at UWE, who travelled to Uganda in the summer of 2014 as part of the UWE Global Water Security Project.

Over the summer, I spent six weeks in Kanungu, Uganda researching the question: ‘To what extent do primary and secondary schools in Kanungu, Uganda enjoy adequate water access, quality and sanitation?’

The research project was part of a wider programme with Volunteer Uganda, which meant there was already a network of support available for me and other volunteers from all over the globe who decided to visit and volunteer in the region.

The research involved a team of seven from Volunteer Uganda, with another eight researchers from the Great Lakes Regional College who assisted us with our research and also helped with translation. The learning experience of working so closely with the local members of the community was invaluable. The relationship that Research Uganda had with the local college meant we were able to gain experience that would be difficult to find elsewhere.

Elena in Africa

I am now in the final year of my degree, which includes writing a dissertation which I will be basing around my time in Uganda. I am going to be looking into whether students at private or government schools with higher fees have better access to water, and how they may be affected by this. A lack of access could mean missing lessons to collect water, or a lack of concentration caused by dehydration affecting the education of the students. From my work in Africa, I can already see patterns from the research I carried out that I can now apply to my studies for my final year Environmental Management in the Global South module.

If I had to carry out this project again, I would stay out in Africa longer and maybe conduct another research project, but this was not available to me at the time. There were numerous other members from Volunteer Uganda who continued on to other projects around Africa which is something I feel I could have really benefited from. I would also do more preliminary reading and background research, including maybe learning some of the local language with the help of Volunteer Uganda.