Chief judge Dr Anna Mahase chats with the Trinidad Publishing Companys managing director Grenfell Kissoon and Guardian general manager Ingrid Isaac .
Michael Phillips poses with Jonathan Barcant of St Marys College, the second place winner, and Nolana Lynch of Holy Faith Convent, the third place winner.
BY JOANNE BRIGGS
A plea has been made for a more co-operative effort to improve childrens writing skills. The call has come from chief judge of the Guardian in Education essay competition, Anna Mahase, who says she would love to see more people grasp the English language.
But it can only happen if there is help. (Better English) is not a means to an end but an end itself, she told teachers and the writers of the 24 most outstanding essays in the competition. She spoke at the prize-giving ceremony in the Audio Visual Room of the National Library, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday.
There is no excuse for poor written expression... It is high time we pay some real attention to the business of writing, Mahase said.
She said while children could tap into the global village through the Internet, that technology could not replace the special chemistry which exists between a truly committed teacher and his or her student.
Writing is a skill. Writing needs to become an easy habitnot something performed only for a purpose like homework or an essay competition. Otherwise we will have even more people with their A-Levels and their university degrees, whose writing is faulty and in some cases a downright embarrassment, Mahase said.
The former principal of St Augustine Girls High School, Mahase also suggested that some classes be devoted purely to the business of writing.
Students can do research into grammar, writing devices and style, she said.
The contest was won by Chad John, an inmate of the Youth Training Centre. He won a scholarship assistance prize worth $8,000, plus a computer and printer. The YTC received $4,000.
John was not present to accept the prize but a YTC representative collected it on his behalf.
In his essay, John spoke about his anguish at being incarcerated and the desire to do better.
John said Olympic medallist Ato Boldon inspired him to become a better person.
Atos life story challenged me to become instrospective. I subsequently came to the realisation that if I were to achieve my dreams, I needed to change how I see myself, John wrote.
Second place went to Jonathan Barcant of St Marys College. He won $5,000 and $3,000 went to his school.
In her comments, Mahase praised Barcant for his fluid expression and smooth handling of standard English.
Barcant was surprised by his achievement, since his focus at school is mathematics, further maths and physics.
He also praised John for winning the contest, which required students to write essays based on inspirational talks conducted by champion cyclist Michael Phillips, former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliam and Boldon.
Chads essay was top quality, he said.
Barcant said he was also inspired by Boldons achievements, but he was in awe of his sense of spirituality and determination to overcome the odds.
Boldons sense of control over the disappointment of failure touched me and has since left me criticising and correcting myself when I am ungrateful and inconsiderate, Barcant said.
Third place went to Nolana Lynch of Holy Faith Convent, Couva. She received a $5,000 scholarship assistance prize and her school received $3,000.
Lynch left T&T when she was 13 to live in Botswana with her parents, who were in pursuit of a new experience.
She returned to T&T at 17 and says she was very appreciative of the free education provided here, in contrast to Botswana, where education is also free, but most youths do not access it, she said.
Secular education is merely seen as an option, and hence most parents opt to keep their children at home, she noted in her essay.
The Guardian in Education school essay project was sponsored by RBTT, British Gas, Guardian Holdings, the National Gas Company and Yara.
Phillips tells youths: Take stock of yourselves
Former national cyclist Michael Phillips has made another call for the youth to put a value system to their names and not in material things.
Relating a fight at this years Southern Games, Phillips said one of the men being dragged away by police shouted in defence, he mashed my Clarks (a pair of high-priced shoes).
Too many people earn money and depend on making their fortune on keeping people ignorant, Phillips said at the prize-giving ceremony for participants of the Guardian in Education essay contest on Tuesday.
Phillips memory of the fight was triggered by Mondays fatal shooting of a man in Guaico, after he intervened in a heated row between his two sons over a pair of sneakers.
We have to take stock of ourselves. What are the consequences of what we are doing? Phillips asked.
It is a clear indication that people need to validate who they are, he answered
One way to do so is through community service, he advised.
He also challenged businessesfirstly to contest sponsors Guardian Life, Yara, RBTT, British Gas and the National Gas Companyto make community service a prerequiste for prospective employees.
We take it for granted that doing something means writing a cheque. Who is doing something for these people? he asked.
Somebody needs to make that move, he urged.
Phillips also called on the population to take care of themselves properly.
Why make other people millionaires and not take care of yourself? he asked. Nobody owes you anything, so getting no is not a crushing disappointment, Phillips said.
A student of Bishop Anstey High School reads the Guardian before the start of the ceremony.
The top 24 participants in the Guardian in Education contest pose with guest speaker Michael Phillips during the prize-giving ceremony.
Photos: Karla Ramoo