JIS: Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, said the Government is committed to the free flow of information to the public and to provide channels for citizens to openly share their views and concerns.
“As a Government, we are the servants of the people. We want to make sure that what we are doing is in the best interest of the people of Jamaica. We are not hiding information; we want to be very transparent,” he said.
The Minister was addressing students and teachers at the launch of the Access to Information (ATI) Unit’s National High School Essay Competition at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston on September 25.
The competition, lunched in 2008, aims to help students to appreciate the value of the ATI Act as a research tool, and garner their interest in issues of national importance.
Senator Reid hailed the initiative, noting that it provides an avenue for young people to become activists and participate constructively in the “fashioning of a peaceful and prosperous Jamaica”.
He said the Government is focused on opening up avenues of progress for youth “who will take up the mantle of leadership in the country”.
“Our youth possess a wealth of knowledge, creativity and enthusiasm. That is why the Government views this cohort of the population as one that needs to be nurtured and instilled with the right skills and values to achieve their highest potential in order to be fully incorporated into national development plans,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Audrey Sewell, in her address noted that since the competition’s inception, it has “laid a solid foundation for youth involvement in national life”.
“It has allowed youngsters to join the conversation on topical issues in our society,” she pointed out.
She noted that the launch of the competition is timely, as this week (September 24- 29) is being celebrated as International Right to Know Week.
“The competition underscores our (ATI Unit) belief in nurturing the intellectual development of our youth and to encourage expansive and critical thinking. We want to inform you about your rights as a citizen and for you to inform others,” she said.
For her part, Public Education Manager at the ATI Unit, OPM, Prudence Barnes, informed that this year’s competition offers two questions, from which students can choose one.
This is a departure from last year when there was only one question.
“With these questions, we’re hoping to take students into the intricacies of the ATI Act and also to explore its provisions in more practical terms. We want these questions to be food for thought,” she said.
Students are required to write a 1,600 to 1,800-word essay on either of the following topics: ‘The ATI Law Balances Rights and Promotes Responsible Access to Information’, or ‘How can members of the public use the Access to Information Act to help bring about transformation in the society?’.
The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2018. Entries should be sent to the Access to Information Unit, 5-9 South Odeon Avenue, Kingston 10; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax 926-9491.
The winner will receive $50,000 plus an ATI trophy; with $30,000 and an ATI trophy for second place; and $20,000 and trophy for third place.
CAPTION: Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (2nd left), and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Audrey Sewell (3rd left), interact with students from Wolmer’s Boys, William Knibb High and the Immaculate Conception High schools. Occasion was the launch of the Access to Information (ATI) National High School Essay Competition at the OPM in Kingston on September 25. At left is Acting Director of the ATI Unit, Tomica Daley.