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Children find their voice at Caribbean Child Research Conference in Jamaica

© UNICEF Jamaica/2008/Hutchinson
At the 2008 Caribbean Child Research Conference in Jamaica, candidates for the Outstanding Child Researcher Award speak with last year's winner.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, 6 November 2008 – The Caribbean Child Research Conference has become a milestone event that brings together academics, child-focused agencies, government officials and children to examine the latest research on issues affecting children.

The theme of the 2008 conference, held recently in Jamaica, was ‘Building a Region Fit for Children’.

The annual conference features meaningful youth participation. Over 200 high school students from across Jamaica converged for this year’s meeting on 21-22 October, actively engaging in the myriad of presentations delivered by eminent researchers from the Caribbean, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Vying for a coveted award
The second day of the conference featured one of the most anticipated sessions – the presentations given by eight children vying for the coveted Outstanding Child Researcher Award. And the excitement was palpable when the first young speaker stepped to the podium in front of the more than 300 people who had gathered to watch.

When the rounds of tough questions from the audience ended and the judges’ scores were tallied, Tsahai Thomas, 17, emerged as the winner. The topic for her research was the relationship between the media consumption and academic achievement of students at her high school.

© UNICEF Jamaica/2008/Hutchinson
Jamaican academician Barbara Bailey (left) receives the Distinguished Researcher Award from UNICEF Jamaica Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge Nada Marasovic.

Each year, candidates for Outstanding Child Researcher select their own research topics and receive guidance from their teachers in implementing their studies. Tsahai, who plans to become a journalist, said she chose her subject because of the current debate in Jamaica regarding the influence of media on children.

“I knew I would have the energy and the zeal for this topic, and 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.”

‘Our own perspectives’
With technical and financial support from UNICEF, the Caribbean Child Research Conference was staged by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, in association with several government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The conference also bestowed the annual Distinguished Researcher Award, which honours an adult researcher whose work on children’s issues has been influential. This year, the respected Jamaican academic Barbara Bailey received the prize.

For young Tsahai and many students like her, the conference has opened up an important avenue for children to be heard. “Children don't have a great enough voice in society. They need to hear our own perspectives,” Tsahai said.



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