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UWI hosts Eric Williams 'School Bags' Essay award ceremony

For Release Upon Receipt - August 18, 2010

St. Augustine

The results are out for the 13th awards ceremony of the biennial Eric Williams ‘School Bags’ essay competition! Prizes were handed out in a formal ceremony on August 13th, hosted by Professor Dyer Narinesingh, Acting Principal of The University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago and Her Excellency Sharon Saunders, High Commissioner for Jamaica.

Yunique Shannakay Francis of Holy Childhood School, Jamaica, copped first place, winning a four-day trip for two to Trinidad and Tobago with airfare, hotel accommodation and meals; a tour of The Eric Williams Memorial Collection at The University of the West Indies campus; a US$1000 educational voucher; courtesy calls on the President of Trinidad and Tobago and the Speaker of the House of Representatives; a tour of Parliament; a set of Eric Williams’ books; a framed certificate; and a 2010 African American Black History Calendar. Her winning essay will be published in the CARICOM newsletter and the Miami Herald newspaper. 

The award ceremony was a roller coaster of emotion for Francis. She beamed with pride as she collected her prize alongside Sharifa Ammon, second-place winner from Bishop Anstey High School in Port of Spain, and Andrew M. Ali, of Hillview College, who won third place. But when it was Francis’ turn to address the audience, which included her mother who had accompanied her from Jamaica, she seemed close to tears.

Organised by The Eric Williams Memorial Collection (EWMC), the essay contest is open to all final-year sixth formers in 178 schools, across 17 Caribbean countries. This year’s competition witnessed a forty per cent increase in participation, with several countries not previously represented, such as Guyana and Barbados, sending in entries. The topic this year was “The Cuban Revolution, 1959-2009:  Discuss its successes and failures. What relevance do these have for today’s student?”

Winner Yunique Francis queried: “What are the implications of the Revolution for students like me?  Because of its internationalist nature, several Jamaicans, who could not have realized their dreams without them, have received scholarships to study medicine in Cuba, returning home to provide care to disadvantaged Jamaicans at public hospitals.”  Sharifa Ammon’s take on the subject was equally clear: “Lessons in perseverance, resilience, self-sufficiency and solidarity can also be learned.”  And, in addressing some of the failures of the 50-year-old Revolution, Andrew Ali paid special attention to what he characterised as Cuba’s political oppression of its people and its diplomatic ‘pariah’ status.

Dr Colin Palmer, Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University, one of three experts who adjudicated the contest, presented a basic overview of the competition. The reviewers were pleased with the depth of understanding displayed by the awardees whose submissions were of an exceptionally high quality—well researched, well written and persuasively argued. They were particularly interested in determining whether the students could provide a balanced assessment of a highly controversial event in the Caribbean’s history.  Along with Dr Palmer, the other judges were: Dr. Franklin Knight, Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History, The Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Rita Pemberton, Head, UWI St. Augustine Department of History.

Among those delivering remarks at the ceremony were: Professor Dyer Narinesingh; Honourable Prakash Ramadhar, Minister of Legal Affairs, Acting Minister of Justice and Acting Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education; Mr Clifton de Coteau, Minister in the Ministry of Education; and Mrs Dahlia Gillings McBean, Counsellor, High Commission for Jamaica.

Closing the ceremony, acknowledgements were delivered by Erica Williams-Connell of The Eric Williams Memorial Collection, The Eric Williams Memorial Collection at The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago comprises the Research Library, Archives and Museum of Eric Williams. It was inaugurated by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 1998, and named to UNECSO’s prestigious Memory of the World Register in 1999.

The “School Bags” essay competition was named after a statement by late scholar-statesman Eric Williams, who led the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for a quarter century until his death in 1981. On August 30th, 1962, the eve of his country’s Independence from Britain, he famously exhorted: “You, the children, yours is the great responsibility to educate your parents…you carry the future of [the Nation] in your school bags.”

For more information, please contact The Office of the Campus Principal at (868) 662-2002 ext. 3942, 3937 or For the latest UWI News, click

About UWI

Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.