Caribbean Child Research Conference and Children’s Rights

By Mikhail Grant, Assistant Chief Editor
On Thursday October 21, 2010, five 6A students and Caribbean Studies teacher Mrs. V. Taylor Smellie served as representatives of Campion College at the 2010 Caribbean Child Research Conference. Held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston, the conference highlighted and investigated the rights of Caribbean children through the presentation of research conducted and essays written by Jamaica’s children. The conference was hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), in collaboration with several organizations such as UNICEF, the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the Child Development Agency and the Ministry of Education. The theme for the CCR Conference was “Five Years before 2015: THE MDGs and Child Rights in the Caribbean”. The MDGs (Millenium Developmental Rights) are eight international development goals that all United Nation member states (which include Jamaica) have aspired to achieve by 2015 ( Included among these goals is the aim to achieve universal primary education, as well as the aim to reduce child mortality rates. In light of these goals and the accompanying short span of time in which to achieve them, the conference’s primary objective was to promote child rights through the presentation of child-related research.
After registration, the second day of the conference commenced with the first Children’s Panel, chaired by Dervan Malcolm of Power 106 FM. Participating High School students (hailing from high schools such as Glenmuir, Ferncourt and Balaclava) presented their research data in hopes of becoming named “Outstanding Child Researcher 2010”. As they presented their research data, the students were critiqued and graded on factors such as Methodology (an important factor when conducting research), Use of Technology and Content. The problems investigated in this session included pressing social issues such as the causes and consequences of Jamaican teenage girls having abortions, as well as the reasons behind the prevalence of homeless children in the streets of Kingston city.
After each presentation, the audience was allowed to query each presenter on their research methods, the content of the research and even their stance on certain social issues. Most researchers were able to effectively answer the several posed questions, even those which proved controversial and invasive. The second Children’s Panel (chaired by Paula Ann Porter-Jones of RJR FM) commenced after a brief coffee break and followed a format that was identical to that of the former panel. The research topics that were presented on during this session included, “Why Do Parents Abandon Their Children?” and “Should a Sixth Form Education be a Right or Privilege?” amongst other topics.
During the presentation of awards, Renee Osbourne of Glemnuir High School was named Outstanding Child Researcher 2010 for her research which was entitled, “The Key to the Future Development of Jamaica Rests in protecting our Children from Violence and Abuse in the Home”. Rushane Finch (Deputy Head Boy of Dunoon Park Technical High) was awarded as well for his methodology while Nicole Wallace (Glenmuir High School) was awarded for her overall presentation. During the Award presentation, primary school students were also acknowledged as three children read their essay based on the topic “What do Children Rights mean to me?” Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke, who was also in attendance, addressed the audience after receiving her Conference Honoree Award. She spoke of the need for more Jamaicans to take the initiative to protect the rights of children through the reporting of violations of rights to the authorities. She also reminisced on her role as Children’s Advocate and even discussed how quickly her organization had evolved and developed in their role of protecting the rights of Jamaican children.
The conference made it evident that ‘Child Rights’ is, now more than ever, a pressing issue in Jamaica. The rights of children have not only been ignored for far too long, but have also been deliberately oppressed by Jamaican citizens. It is imperative that the initiative is taken to inform every Jamaican child of their rights. We need to foster an environment in which children are seen and heard, not neglected and ignored. It is also imperative that we, as Campionites, seek to enlighten ourselves of our rights and privileges to which we are entitled through our mere existence. In an age where rights are being violated every second of the day, do you know your rights? (