Online newspaper Wired868 is seeking to build and develop critical thinking skills among Trinidad and Tobago’s 11-18 year olds. It hopes to do this through its Write Start essay contest 2021.
And there are $26,000 in prizes to be won. The competition was launched on September 28 and the deadline for submission is October 29.
The paper’s managing director and chief editor Lasana Liburd said US-based Trinidadian businessman Sean Powder came to the paper with the idea.
As one of its readers and contributors, he wanted to encourage dynamic thinking among TT’s young nationals and he asked the paper if it could help them come up with a concept, Liburd said.
Liburd said he then got Wired868 columnist and editor Earl Best involved. Discussions about the competition happened pretty quickly and certain discussions took place in early September, he added.
“He is really a life-long educator. He taught at Queen’s Royal College (QRC) and he is a lecturer right now at The College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of TT (COSTAATT).”
Liburd and Best both worked at the Trinidad Guardian and the Express newspapers.
Best and Liburd shaped what the competition would look like and decided the age limits and categories so that, “an 11-year-old would not compete with an 18-year-old.”
They also came up with the topics, Liburd said.
Best came up with the topic for the 16-18 year olds and they are being asked to, “describe the ways in which they think the first post-covid19 Carnival will be different from its predecessors.”
Liburd who came up with the topic for the 11-15 year olds. They are being asked to write a fictional story with the title, “The day I met my local hero” and the hero has to be “a real-life person.”
While TT has a high education standard, the paper and its team felt that the “level of out-of-the-box thinking, maybe even comprehension, isn’t really what it should be,” Liburd said.
“A lot of the times our education system seems to hinge on rote learning or simply remembering what the teacher told you and regurgitating it for the exams, eventually.
“So the challenge is to give them something that…they have to come with a concept on their own and ideas on their own.”
Those topics also serve a dual purpose: calling for creativity while giving the wider public something it is interested in hearing about.
There will be two separate judging panels. The COSTAATT Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies will judge the 16-18 group.
The 11-15 group will be judged by a panel chaired by novelist, poet and columnist Lisa Allen-Agostini and which includes QRC’s former head of its English department Francis Warner and writer Raheema Sayyid-Andrews.
The paper has taken steps to eliminate bias. When the essays are submitted to the judges, there is only going to be a number; no name or school.
The competition has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education and the paper received a letter of endorsement from Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. It has also been assisting in promoting the competition and spreading word of the competition to schools.
One of its other sponsors bmobile is offering a package of mobile data to winners.
While this is its first year, Liburd hopes to continue the competition in the future.
Winners will be announced on December 13.