The insightful, poignant and sometimes harrowing work of young student reporters and photo-journalists has been celebrated in the finals of the Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year Awards 2014.
The competition, which is run by Amnesty International UK and supported by SecEd and the Guardian Teacher Network, saw more than 7,000 entries this year across a range of disciplines and categories.
There were six “reporting” categories across key stages 2 to 5 including four for written articles and two for photography.
Students were asked to write an article or report of up to 500 words on a human rights-related issue, or to submit a photograph illustrating a human rights theme.
Ten finalists were named in each category with the winners being unveiled during a ceremony at Amnesty’s London HQ last week.
Among the winners this year is Rosie Young, 13, from Fortrose Academy, who won the Lower Secondary Reporter category with her essay describing the barriers that stop millions of children from being able to go to school in countries across the world.
Meanwhile, Alice Reynolds, 15, from The Royal School, Haslemere won the Upper Secondary Reporter category with her article on the immigrants who come to Thailand in search of work but end up being trafficked and imprisoned on fishing boats.
She wrote: “Anyone unable to work or refusing to do so is thrown overboard or shot in what is described as ‘casual homicide’.”
Ele Saltmarsh, 17, from Woodroffe School, won the Further Education category for her harrowing piece on the persecution of the Sengwer, an indigenous tribe in Kenya (extracts from Rosie's, Alice’s and Ele’s articles are printed below).
Meanwhile, in the photography category topics tackled by the entrants ranged from homophobia and gender stereotypes to sexism and child abuse.
The winners were Sharada Kashyap, 15, from Croydon High School in the Upper Primary/Lower Secondary category, and Reece McCreadie, 17, from Coleg Sir Gâr in Carmarthenshire, in the Upper Secondary/Further Education category.
Sharada’s entry, pictured below, tackled the issue of homelessness. She told judges: “This picture shows that people walk past the homeless and they hardly give them a second glance. It’s as if there are two separate worlds. The girl walking by this homeless person doesn’t seem to care.”
Reece meanwhile won for his photograph titled Suppression of Expression (pictured at the beginning of this article). He said: “The image shows the back of an anonymous subject being grasped and restricted by hands belonging to either them or to another anonymous. Without freedom of expression there is no way to truly have an identity at all.”
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “I thoroughly enjoy the Amnesty Youth Awards. It is so inspiring to see young people show such a passion and commitment for human rights. The quality of the writing has been simply outstanding.”
For more information on the Awards and on Amnesty’s education resources, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/education
Extracts from winning articles: Rosie Young, Lower Secondary
Aklima, a 12-year-old from Bangladesh, who scavenges at the dangerous local dump instead of attending school. Ishmael, from Sierra Leone, who was recruited into the military at the age of 11 and learnt only how to kill. Alejandra, a 13-year-old who works an exhausting 14-hour day and has no time for learning.
Poverty is a major barrier to education. Families cannot afford school fees, and children are instead forced into child labour, or work at home as subsistence farmers. A shocking one sixth of the world’s children are child labourers. Is that the only future they have?
Poor teaching standards and lack of resources is another problem, notably in rural Africa. An example is Malawi, where teachers train for only one year and then must teach classes of up to 100 pupils.
Extracts from winning articles: Alice Reynolds, Upper Secondary
Beyond the postcard perfect beaches lies a disturbing truth as thousands of young men (mostly from neighbouring Myanmar and Cambodia) are imprisoned on fishing boats, only one in six of which are registered, where they are forced to work in order to pay back a ‘debt’ owed to the brokers who ensnared them there in the first place.
Due to the suffering economies of Myanmar and Cambodia, thousands come to Thailand in search of a better life for themselves and their destitute families whilst thousands more are smuggled in illegally. The outcome is the same. They are promised a job in a factory or market before ending up miles out to sea, for months even years at a time, on dangerous and unsanitary ships where beatings are regular and payment almost unheard of. Anyone unable to work or refusing to do so is thrown overboard or shot in what is described as ‘casual homicide’.
Extracts from winning articles: Ele Saltmarsh, Further Education
The Sengwer are an indigenous tribe based in Embobut forest, Kenya – but not, it seems, for much longer. Since 2007, repeated attempts at evicting the tribe have been made, all in the name of conservation.
In 2013 a moratorium on forced evictions was granted in response to complaints of human rights violations. However in January 2014, police accompanied by armed soldiers invaded the villages, chasing out the inhabitants without even allowing them to collect their belongings. Now the whole tribe are sheltering in the forest with their livelihoods gone up in flames, and no authority to turn to.
Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year 2014 Reporter: Upper PrimaryWinner: Ciara Griffin, Merryhills Primary School.Runners-Up: Callum Groom, St John’s and St Clement’s Primary School; Sharanya Roy, Knaphill School. Reporter: Lower SecondaryWinner: Rosie Young, Fortrose AcademyRunners-up: Christina Blaney, St Killian’s College; Aidan Tulloch, Thirsk School. Reporter: Upper SecondaryWinner: Alice Reynolds, The Royal School, HaslemereRunners-up: Julia Routledge, Sherborne Girls School; Daniella Cugini, King’s High School. Reporter: Sixth FormWinner: Ele Saltmarsh, The Woodroffe SchoolRunners-up: Richenda Rae, Larbert High School; Rachel Jacobs, Darrick Wood School Photographer: Upper Primary/Lower SecondaryWinner: Sharada Kashyap, Croydon High SchoolRunners-up: Luka Philip, Wirral Grammar School; Annabel Plummer, Croydon High School Photographer: Upper Secondary/Further EducationWinner: Reece McCreadie, Coleg Sir GârRunners-up: Rachel Murdoch, Princes Risborough Secondary School; Rae Kinzett, Coleg Sir Gâr CAPTION: The two winning photographs, Supression of Expression and Homelessness are pictured above, as are two of the winners Alice Reynolds (top) and Ele Saltmarsh (above).