Access to Information Unit’s High School Essay Winners Rewarded
Wolmer’s Boys’ School sixth-former Oshnel Bryan is the Access to Information Unit’s 2016/2017 National High School Essay Competition winner. Oshnel won the competition from among a field of 22 entrants from 16 schools across Jamaica. Nastacia Linton of William Knibb Memorial High School earned second place while Juzel Lloyd of Wolmer’s Girls School was awarded third place. The Awards ceremony took place at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday April 4, 2017.
The first place awardee won a grand prize of $50,000, a trophy, a certificate as well as gift items from the Access to Information Unit, while second place was awarded a $30,000 cash prize, a trophy, certificate and gifts, and the third place winner received a cash prize of $20,000, a trophy and other prizes.
An excited Oshnel Bryan said he was elated to have won the competition and thanked the Access to Information Unit for the opportunity.
The students were asked to write on the topic: “The Access to Information Act is playing a Significant Role in Improving Accountability and Transparency in Jamaica.”
In her remarks, Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister Mrs. Shereika Hemmings-Allison noted that the OPM was ever mindful that a transparent and accountable society must be a key pillar upon which Jamaica builds a prosperous nation marked by robust economic growth and a fair and equitable society for all citizens.
Mrs. Hemmings-Allison who has oversight responsibility for the ATI Unit said: “It is for this reason that improved governance, including transparency in government is one of the goals outlined in Vison 20/30 National Development Plan, which is a blueprint for Jamaica’s development. Additionally, earlier this year, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness while reiterating his vision for economic growth, pledged to promote an inclusive, prosperous society and to eradicate social and economic inequality.”
She stated further that, “Access to information no doubt plays an integral role in achieving this vision. That is why I am pleased that our youth continue to get on board with ATI”.
She congratulated the competition’s entrants and winners, noting that the topic was specifically crafted to elicit from students, their knowledge of the ATI Act, its achievements and challenges, as well as to encourage further research and analysis of the legislation’s role in changing the Jamaican landscape from one of secrecy.
“Indeed, through their work, the students continue to articulate their understanding of how Jamaica can progress as a country, and give suggestions on strengthening our democracy while promoting a more prosperous nation founded on the noble principles of transparency and accountability,” she stated.
Senior Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Mr. Paul Ashley represented Minister of State in the Ministry of Education Youth and Information the Hon. Floyd Green.
In his message read by Mr. Ashley, Minister Green noted that the essay competition was a great vehicle to encourage an informed citizenry.
“Many times we join the chorus (of voices) condemning corruption and a lack of transparency in public life based on feelings and longstanding perceptions. When we take the trouble to find out how we can get the information we need, it helps us develop a better understanding of the systems and policies that govern public life, and thereby reduce cynicism and distrust,” he said.
Observing the increased access to information due to technology and other factors, Minister Green further urged persons to use information responsibly.
Chairman of the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica and Jamaica House Fellow Mr. Aubrey Stewart encouraged the youth to use information to effect positive change in their personal lives and community.
Noting that information could be used for good and for bad, Mr. Stewart added: “For too long we have waited for change. This will come only when you take information that you receive from various speakers here today and convert it into action.”
Sherona Forester 2016 Rhodes Scholar and Jamaica House Fellow entertained the audience with powerful renditions which included two medley’s—Donnie McLurkin’s Yes You Can and Celine’s Dion’s Power of the Dream and later the Jamaican favourite Rise Up and Strive by Shinehead.
Judges in the competition were Mss Brenda Smith, Director of Documentation and Access Services in the Ministry of Justice; Dr. Marline Hines, Director of Documentation and Access Services in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; Miss Christal Parris-Campbell, Legal Intern in the Office of the Prime Minister and member of the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica; Mrs. Shereika Hemmings-Allison, Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister and Miss Prudence Barnes, Public Education Manager in the Access to Information Unit.
Contact: Access to Information Unit