Children Have Their Say at Caribbean Child Research Conference: “Promoting Child Rights Through Research”
KINGSTON, 28 October 2008 — During one session of the Caribbean Child Research Conference, the room fell quiet as the first young speaker stepped to the podium. Over three hundred people were gathered for one of the most anticipated sessions of the conference – the presentations of eight children vying for the coveted award for Outstanding Child Researcher.
When the rounds of tough questions from the audience were over and the judges’ scores were tallied, seventeen year-old Tsahai Thomas emerged as the winner for her research on the relationship between media consumption and academic achievement of students at her high school.
Held for the third year in Jamaica on October 21-22, under the theme “Building a Region Fit for Children,” the Caribbean Child Research Conference has become a milestone event that brings together academics, child-focused agencies, government officials and children for two intensive days to examine the latest research on issues affecting children.
The conference has become well-known for bringing the theory of meaningful children’s participation to life. Over two hundred high school students from across Jamaica converged at the conference this year, actively engaging in myriad presentations by eminent researchers hailing from the Caribbean, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Each year, candidates for the Outstanding Child Researcher award select their own research topic, and receive guidance from their teachers in implementing their study. Tsahai, who wants to become a journalist in the future, said she chose her subject because of the current debate in Jamaica surrounding the influence of media on children.
“I knew I would have the energy and the zeal for this topic, I would not be bored!” she said. “I always thought media use would have a big impact on academic achievement, but the students proved me wrong. They are watching a lot of TV but still getting relatively good grades.”
With technical and financial support from UNICEF, the 2008 Caribbean Child Research Conference was staged by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies in Jamaica, in association with several government agencies and child-focused NGOs.
The conference also bestows an annual award of Distinguished Researcher for an adult researcher whose research on children’s issues has been influential. This year well-respected Jamaican academic Barbara Bailey copped the prize.
For young Tsahai, and many other students like her, the Caribbean Child Research Conference has opened up an important avenue for children to be heard. “Children don't have a great enough voice in society,” Tsahai reflected.
“There are many children's advocates but they don't always consider the view of the children who they talk about. They need to hear our own perspectives,” she concluded.