You win, IRB.

Today we went to a primary school without Terry; she has been staying behind lately as she gets more and more tired due to pregnancy. This poses some challenges because there are only three of us on the IRB proposal (Collin, Terry, and me).

English is supposed to be the language of instruction in the schools here in Kenya, but 1) this isn’t always the case 2) American-accented English is convoluted to the locals’ ears, apparently. So, Collin was out walking Senya on the school grounds because she was bored in the classroom. Meanwhile, I was in the classroom with an overly zealous and involved deputy head teacher. He wanted to be the person to ask the questions on the questionnaire. He also wanted to hover over the pupils as they answered the questionnaire.

So, as this situation unfolded (much to my surprise), I informed him that I needed to be the one to lead the questionnaire. He allowed me to do this until it became clear that the pupils didn’t understand my American-accented English. The deputy head teacher decided that he would resume asking the questions. Again, I tried to politely explain that this was not in my IRB protocol, and if the pupils didn’t understand my instructions then we would need to discontinue the questionnaire. He responded by saying, “I will just ask the questions”; I quickly found myself outside shouting for Collin to come into the classroom for back up.

But Collin was no where to be seen, and I felt a sense of panic well-up inside of me as I started thinking about the rapidly approaching time when the questions weren’t going to be about age and religion anymore; soon they would be progressing into personal questions about sexual knowledge and experience. I could only imagine how awkward that would make the pupils feel as the deputy head teacher (not sure what that title entails, but it sounds important) hovered over each pupil as s/he was supposed to tick the boxes about sexual history. How horrifying. And NOT in my protocol. And definitely not approved by the IRB.

I couldn’t find Collin, so the best I could do was muster up the persona of my favorite television character, Liz Lemon from 30 Rock. I decided it was just time to SHUT IT DOWN. And so I walked back into the classroom, and did exactly that. I insisted. I was polite and said “pole sana” (very sorry) several times, but I was not backing down on this one. I explained that this was just not okay with my university and that it was my fault for not having a Swahili version of the questionnaire (though, in my defense, I was ill-advised about the language of instruction AND my protocol included hiring Terry as our translator for the month). But I guess sometimes you just have to know when to shut things down. And I am learning that is a good skill to master.

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