EDITORIAL: Giving youth a voice

Youth in Barbados have been given many platforms to allow their voices to be heard on key issues. One avenue has been through the written word, as seen by the contributions made by local youth to the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

The Commonwealth Essay Competition, involving primary and secondary school students, is the world’s oldest and largest schools’ international writing contest, engaging young people from Commonwealth countries since 1883. It is managed annually by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) in London and supported by the Barbados Branch and the Ministry of Education.

In 2019, over 11,000 young people from across the Commonwealth entered the competition, 30 of which were from Barbados. The 2019 contest invited young people to share on the topic of “A Connected Commonwealth” and to consider how they could work to ensure cultural, technological and environmental connections for positive change. The local award entries included submissions from nine girls and three boys, for a total of 12 students in all, from four schools. Though the response from local schools could be better, it must be said that the winners in both the Junior and Senior categories of the essay competition, have produced sterling work of which they can be very proud.

During the Award Programme hosted recently by the Royal Commonwealth Society – Barbados Branch for the winners of the 2019 Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, the winners in both categories were able to read for those gathered, their work which was of a very high quality, that indeed should even be published. It’s amazing to see such young minds giving vent to a number of touching issues that concern children and youth in the Commonwealth.

Thus, the RCS Barbados Branch must be commended for the work it has done to date, to push the essay competition, which encourages excellence in literacy and expression and to get more schools to participate. It is now up to principals and teachers to do their part to allow more youthful voices to be heard on touching matters.

Principals and teachers must now focus on the 2020 essay competition. Building upon the 2019 theme of “A Connected Commonwealth”, this year’s topics draw on the increasing youth movement across the Commonwealth and the ongoing climate crisis. Young people are called upon to consider their position and power in bringing about change, and how the Commonwealth can be used as a tool for positive action. Given that the final panel of expert judges described entries to the competition in 2019 as ‘massively memorable’, ‘original’ and ‘very powerful’, it is expected that a similarly high calibre of writing for 2020 will follow.

For 2020, we can therefore expect to hear from more of our young people, as their voices matter. Just as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, has started an international youth movement against climate change, we can have local youth right here in Barbados, lifting their voices as well, to speak out about key matters in need of positive change.

Barbados Advocate

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