OBSERVER: Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid has charged young people to use information to increase their own knowledge and marketability and to make a positive difference in the world.

 

“It is a fact that we exist in an information age and knowledge economy, where our success is directly related to our capacity to effectively develop our intellect and use information intelligently to not only understand the world we live in, but also to take command of it and chart a positive way forward,” Reid said.

 

Noting further that social media was a space dominated by youth, Senator Reid urged them to use it for good.

 

“There are many youngsters who use the power of social media for good — to bring attention to the important issues in their families, communities and the country. Social media has been used to open the eyes of the world and to rally support for our neighbours affected by disasters or health issues and other matters of national and global relevance. However, there are times when information is sensationalised, weaponised and used to harm others instead of helping to speak encouraging and uplifting words,” the Minister observed.

 

He was speaking at the launch of the Access to Information Unit's National High School Essay Competition at the Office of the Prime Minister late last month.

 

He noted that the goal of the ATI essay competition was to lift the standard of data exchange and consumption and to equip young people to make effective use of information for their own personal improvement and for positive transformation of the society.

 

“The competition is seeking to assist our youth to hone your research and critical thinking skills, and enable you to more deeply consider issues of national significance and become part of the movement for positive change and a force for national and global good,” the education minister underscored.

 

In her welcome, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Audrey Sewell noted that over the years the National High School Essay Competition has laid a solid foundation for youth involvement in national life and for youngsters to join the national conversation on topical issues in the society.

 

She encouraged students to enter the competition and to get their peers on board, arguing that it was not about the prizes to be won, but about personal development and laying a good foundation for tertiary studies.

 

Archibald Hylton, special advisor to Derrick Smith, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, noted that the essay competition was part of government's broader strategy to reach the youth, adding that young people are being positioned at the centre of national development.

 

Nastacia Linton of William Knibb High School, who placed second in the 2016/2017 staging of the competition, gave the following endorsement: “The ATI essay competition has caused me to see through different eyes; the eyes of a responsible citizen, of the nation builder. I am now more aware of my rights to accessing information and the responsibility that I have to use this information to effect change in my school, community and the wider Jamaica. I now realise that I am a significant part of government administration and that I too can make decisions that will help build Jamaica.”

 

Linton added that she gained a lot of exposure and benefits from the competition:

 

“Thanks to the ATI Unit my friends and family can Google me and boast about this honourable achievement. Thanks also to the ATI Unit I had $30,000 worth of back-to-school expenditure covered five months before the beginning of the school year,” the William Knibb student declared.

 

The essay competition runs until January 31, 2018. Entrants are required to write 1600-1800 words on the topics: (a) The ATI law balances rights and promotes responsible access to information. Discuss, or (b) How can members of the public use the Access to Information Act to help bring about (positive) transformation in the society?”

 

Prizes are $50,000; $30,000 and $20,000 for first, second and third place, respectively. Each person will also receive an ATI trophy.

 

“The 2017/2018 ATI national high school essay competition promises to be an exciting journey for students all across Jamaica. It is a competition that will enable them to put their creativity and imagination to work to create something beautiful,” declared Prudence Barnes, public education manager at the Access to Information Unit.