Resource of the Week - Amnesty International Competition - Writing for rights

23rd August 2013 at 01:00
A competition aims to inspire the reporters of tomorrow

Journalism has always had a mixed reputation. But it is important to remember that the courage and determination of some reporters in pursuing their investigations has uncovered important information - and even fuelled social change.

As TES Connect partner Amnesty International highlights, journalists have historically played an essential role in exposing human rights abuses - for example, in Zimbabwe, Egypt and Syria, and, for those with longer memories, Burma, Sri Lanka and Chile. Indeed, Amnesty was launched with an article in UK newspaper The Observer more than 50 years ago.

Journalists have brought to public attention issues including torture, the conscription of child soldiers and restrictions on freedom of expression. As a result, such topics are now routinely taught in schools.

Amnesty continues to encourage the teaching of global human rights issues but its secondary goal is to develop the journalists of tomorrow. Its Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year competition, set up in 2009, now attracts entries from more than 200 schools in the UK. Last year, some 2,500 students took part.

The 2014 competition, which launches this week as part of the new Amnesty Youth Awards, is split into four age-related categories, from 7-18. The awards will also recognise young people's achievements in photography, music - through a protest song competition - and active citizenship focused on global human rights. Each area is supported by comprehensive curriculum-linked activities (available at www.amnesty.org.ukyouthawards).

The Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year competition has already had a significant impact. Sajeela Shah, a teacher at Benton Park School in Leeds, said that helping her students to take part refreshed her commitment to teaching and reminded her why she had joined the profession.

"One of my pupils, Francesca Talbot, was shortlisted for the lower secondary category of Amnesty's Young Human Rights Reporter competition and it proved to be a real turning point for the school and me personally," Shah says.

"It inspired Francesca, who has since had two blogs published by The Guardian. (Her) success came at a difficult time in teaching for me and the Amnesty awards really made me reflect on why I became a teacher. They restored my faith in the profession. It was the highlight of my teaching career."

The winner of last year's protest song competition appears in a documentary called Make Some Noise about the power of music, which will air on BBC Radio 1 on 2 September. Full details of the awards can be found at www.amnesty.org.ukyouthawards.

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