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Methodology

The present study among Sahrawi children in Spain modified the youth questionnaire that had been used for the wider study in order to be relevant for the Sahrawi and Spanish context [See Appendix A]. The questionnaire was designed to elicit the children’s perspectives on such topics as: education, political consciousness, knowledge of the Western Sahara/Occupied Territories, family and gender organisation in the camps, aspirations for the future, and the Vacaciones en Paz hosting programme. Questions were open-ended and used to guide, but not determine, the direction of the interview/conversations with the youth.

In addition, a questionnaire was created for the Spanish host parents in order to obtain information on their patterns of hosting, the degree to which they maintain contact with their host children throughout the year, and the quality and quantity of economic and other forms of support they provide. Those host families who decided to collaborate returned their completed, anonymous, questionnaires through the post, using pre-addressed and stamped envelopes.

Consent had to be obtained at numerous levels in order to gain access to the forty-six children interviewed. Initial contact was established from the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford with the Asociación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de Madrid, and later with the local Polisario Delegation.

Representatives of the Asociación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de Madrid presented the research plan to local members of the Polisario Delegation who in turn provided their willingness to cooperate. When the two field researchers arrived in Madrid, they met with a representative of the Madrid group as well as with two members of the Polisario Delegation. They agreed to provide the researchers with the names of the local Spanish coordinators who manage the children being hosted in their catchment area throughout the larger region of Madrid. Local coordinators were contacted and asked to provide contact information for the host families in their catchment area. The researchers then telephoned the host families in order to gain consent and to arrange appointments for one-to-one interviews in the host families’ respective homes. In a few cases, the local coordinators organised a day of interviewing with children in their area. Some even provided transportation between appointments. Others chose not to cooperate, claiming time constraints or simply failed to return the researchers’ phone calls.

 

The field research was carried out over a three-week period in August, 2005, in Madrid. A further three interviews were carried out in the Canary Islands. The two field researchers were based in the city centre and used public transportation to reach the outlying towns where most of the interviews were eventually arranged.

The targeted age group for the study was individuals between the ages of eight and eighteen. However, because the research sample in Spain was drawn from the Vacaciones en Paz programme, the age range of the sample was more limited – children generally begin to participate in the programme at age eight or nine and continue on until around age twelve. This is true for both boys and girls. The data collected in Spain is therefore heavily weighted towards the views of eight to twelve year olds. A few older children who were in Spain for medical reasons were also asked to participate.

When possible, the interviews were one-to-one and took place in the family home. Some of the interviews were held at a number of the offices of Sahrawi associations in and around Madrid. On average, the interviews took between thirty and forty-five minutes. Some of the meetings were organised as group-interviews and these tended to take more than an hour, depending on the number of children involved. Others ended up as group-interviews, either in the family home or in one of the meeting rooms of the relevant Sahrawi associations.

Most of the interviews were recorded using an MP3 player and later transcribed and translated from Spanish into English. Conversations with host parents were sometimes recorded or simply written up as a note attached to the respective child’s transcript. Supplementary notes were made on two ‘going-away’ parties for the children to which the researchers had been invited. Additional observations were made at Barajas Airport over a two-night period when the host families bade farewell to the children as they departed on flights back to the camps.

Last updated Sep 23, 2011