JIS News

Public Education Manager at the Access to Information (ATI) Unit, Tricia Cameron-Anglin, is appealing to secondary school teachers to encourage more of their students to participate in its National Essay Competition.
In an interview with JIS News, she said that the essay competition would be an empowering experience for students as it would heighten their understanding of the importance and usefulness of the ATI Act.
“I would encourage all teachers and principals to get their students to get on board as this is a perfect opportunity for students to understand more about the rights they have under the ATI Act and how empowering it can be for them, not just for research, but also for participation in their school activities and the national decision-making process of the country, through their communities, and the national programmes as a whole,” Mrs. Cameron-Anglin stated.
The essay competition, which was launched in September 2008, is open to students from fourth to sixth form, who are required to write to the topic: ‘Why is the Access to Information Act 2002 important to Jamaica’s democracy and how can it be used to improve your community?’
The deadline for submission of entries is January 30, 2009 and entries must be sent to the Access to Information Unit, 5-9 South Odeon Avenue, Kingston 10. Additionally, due to the fact that some three months have passed since the competition was launched, Mrs. Cameron-Anglin disclosed that participants will be permitted to resubmit entries before the deadline.
“They can resubmit or they could leave the existing essay [as] we are looking for the best essay, which captures the essence of the question that we have put out there,” she said.
She pointed out that “the student would only be able to take credit for one essay, because each contestant will only be allowed to submit one essay, so we would have to ask the student to decide which essay they are going to allow to stand.”
The winner, second and third places, will receive cash awards of $10, 000, $7, 000 and $5, 000, respectively in addition to trophies.
For students, who might not be convinced of the benefits and importance of participating in such a competition, the Public Education Manager stressed that “it’s an excellent opportunity for them to have their essay published, which we are intending to do, so that persons are aware not only of their (students) writing abilities, but of the contribution that they are making to the society and on behalf of their schools”.
“It would be an excellent starting point for them as well, in terms of including it in their resumes that they would send out for job placements and it would be an excellent selling point for them as an individual, to actually participate in something of this magnitude, to be crowned (a) national essay winner,” she added.
The National Essay Competition is one of the many activities that the ATI Unit is undertaking in the thrust to generate greater awareness about the ATI Act. “We want the message to be out there and get more persons using the Act, to understand what it is about, what it provides for, the objectives of the Act and how they can practically apply the tenets outlined in the legislation,” Mrs. Cameron-Anglin informed.
For more information on the National Essay Competition, interested parties can call 968 – 8282 or email ati@cwjamaica.com
The primary responsibility of the ATI Unit is to spearhead and guide the implementation and administration of the ATI Act, which was passed in June 2002. The Act provides the public with “a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities, subject to exemptions, which balance that right against the public interest in exempting from disclosure, governmental, commercial or personal information of a sensitive nature”.
The Act seeks to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely governmental accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision-making.

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