The project ‘Strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s Human Rights Capacity through Innovative Legal Education Delivery’ implemented by the Faculty of Law, U.W.I. St. Augustine, hosted the finals and closing ceremony of the ‘Secondary Schools Human Rights Advocacy Training and Competition’ on Saturday April 21st, at the U.W.I. St. Augustine Campus. A selected group of ten (10) schools from Trinidad and Tobago accepted the challenge to participate in the Moot and Visual Arts components of the Competition. The winners of the Moot Competition were Nirvana Maharaj and Vrishni Maharaj (who also won Best Mooter) from Naparima Girls High School, while Mataffie Pascall from Speyside High School took 1st prize in the Visual Arts Competition.
The finals of the Moot Court Competition saw the 2-person team from Hillview College (Dylan Kowlessar and Satesh Singh representing the fictional Non-Governmental Organisation ‘Speak Up’) go up against the team from Naparima Girls High School (representing the state of the fictional country of ‘Socaland’), in the case of a blind, poor and abused child, John James, who was denied entrance into a government primary school, which led to a series of events that culminated in his arrest for violent behavior and expulsion from a government-run Braille programme. ‘Speak Up’ was therefore bringing the State of ‘Socaland’ before the High Court to answer to charges of human rights violations.
The arguments, written and oral, were the result of weeks of intense training and mentorship, that brought together volunteer Attorneys (including Alumni of the Faculty of Law) and current Law students, who worked with student participants and teachers in understanding how to interpret the law, craft an argument and be a tireless advocate for those who need it the most. The judges of the High Court of ‘Socaland’ were actual Judges of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago, Justices Ronnie Boodoosingh and Ricky Rahim, who were joined by Betsy-Ann Lambert Peterson, Family Court Judge. While the final decision was made in favour of the State, with Naparima Girls High School coming out as the winners, all the judges lauded the participants for their depth of knowledge, their commitment and their passion in advocating for their cause.
Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Project Lead, in her remarks told the diverse audience that adults have not done enough to address injustice and inequity and this young generation had the intellect and more open attitudes to be change agents and bring about more human rights. She hoped that the Faculty of Law in the Moot had given these inspiring children the tools to shape society for the better since Law must be a catalyst for positive social change. These sentiments were echoed by the two Technical Leads for the Competition Mr. Timothy Affonso and Mrs. Afiya France, who co-chaired the closing ceremony.
The closing ceremony also served as a mini-exhibition of the thirteen (13) Visual Art pieces that were submitted under the theme ‘Protecting the Rights of the Child’. Judges and observers were wowed by the depth of feeling and heights of creativity that were displayed, showing that being an advocate for Human Rights can be also done through the Arts. The winning piece, described as exquisite by Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, will be displayed in the Faculty of Law. Dr. Gadsby-Dolly also handed out prizes to the winners and met several of the participants of the Moot and Visual Art components.