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William Knibb student wins ATI essay competition

Thursday, April 10, 2014    

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MARTHA BRAE, Trelawny

FIFTEEN-year-old, fourth form student of William Knibb High School in Trelawny, Danielle Pritchard, is the 2013 winner of the Access to Information (ATI) National High School Essay Competition.

She was chosen from a pool of 15 students across seven parishes, who participated in the fifth annual competition, organised by the Access to Information Unit, and the Access to Information Advisory Stakeholder Committee, in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Nasharia Serinash of Glenmuir High in Clarendon, and Khanu Daley of Munro College in St Elizabeth, received the second and third prizes respectively at the awards ceremony, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on April 3.

Students were asked to write essays on the topic "The Access to Information Act 2002 is critical for enabling citizens to exercise their voice, to effectively monitor and hold government accountable and to enter into informed dialogue about decisions which affect their lives."

An elated Danielle told the Jamaica Observer West on Monday that she is very pleased to have won the competition, adding that winning will place her school in the spotlight.

"I am very overwhelmed. Winning will give my school exposure and recognition. Normally, because my school is seen as a country school it is rarely highlighted, so I believe that this win will help us to become more known nationally," Danielle argued.

Danielle, who wants to become a university lecturer, said she decided to enter the competition because she saw it as a medium in which she could express herself."

She received a trophy and a cash prize of $50,000 for having the best essay in the competition.

Marlon Reid, her English teacher, said Danielle, who was the only entrant for the school in the competition, was selected on the basis of her performance.

"Danielle has one of the highest averages in the school. Her style of writing has been observed and admired from she was in Grade 7, and so when the competition was presented it was the decision of most of the teachers that she should enter," he explained.

He stressed that the teenager has done the school proud, adding that William Knibb High is not known only for sports, but for academics, as well.

William Knibb, located on the outskirts of Falmouth, has over the years produced many outstanding sportsmen, including the legendary Usain Bolt, Michael Green, Marvin Anderson and Jason Young.

Just last month, the Trelawny-based school won the KFC All-Island Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Under-19 basketball competition.

Meanwhile, underscoring the importance of the Access to Information Act to the democratic process at the awards ceremony for the essay competition, principal director of the Information Division in the Office of the Prime Minister, Joanne Archibald, said everyone should exercise their right to know, in order to make informed decisions in their daily lives.

"We want knowledge and use of the ATI Act to take hold in Jamaica especially among our youth. It was for this very reason that the competition was created in 2008 to get young persons interested and excited about the Act," she said.

Director of the ATI Unit Damian Cox, emphasised that the Act is critical for enabling citizens to exercise their voice, and to effectively monitor and hold government accountable.

"Our young people in particular can help to ensure that our democratic values continue to evolve for the benefit of all of us, far in the future and also to celebrate and use the right information that they possess," he said.

Cox said the 2013 competition had more entries from schools in rural Jamaica, and that the entries as a whole, demonstrated an excellent grasp of the application of the ATI Act.

The sixth renewal of the competition, which is aimed at helping students to appreciate the value of the ATI Act as a research tool, and garnering their interest in issues of national importance, will again be launched in September.

-- Mark Cummings

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