Yesterday I flew to Banjul, the Gambia, where I’m working on an impact evaluation of an education project. In economics, it’s tempting to examine the research on the topic and to neglect the place, de-emphasizing context. To add to the education reading I’ve done, I took a look around to see what other recent research has been done in the Gambia. For being continental Africa’s smallest country, there is a lot.
Some of it is far from my subject, like the paper on agriculture-related injuries and rural nursing service. But other research, despite no blatant connection, has the potential to yield real insights into the context of my work. A study on childhood vaccination practices uses qualitative methods to explore why some people are more likely to complete their children’s vaccination schedules, and those reasons could inform my hypotheses as to why some parents are much less active than others in the school management community. Some of the methods used to produce a locally accessible film about tuberculosis could be tentatively applied to make education more accessible.
In searching specifically for papers on the Gambia, I also found education papers that would never have turned up in a general education search but which provide invaluable background. One paper assesses the returns to education in the Gambia; another explores the relationships between democracy and the structure of the Gambian education system. I’m learning my lesson: Read spatial, not just topical.