Oxford pupil wins Amnesty International poetry competition award for the Midlands

Aditi Gaddam’s poem named You Can’t Jail Minds the Midlands regional winner

St Clare’s School pupil Aditi Gaddam, 16, has been named as the Key Stage 4 regional winner for the Midlands in Amnesty International’s prestigious You Can’t Jail Minds poetry competition for her poem Maze.

The competition designed for secondary schools came with a twist. Pupils were asked to imagine how it feels to be imprisoned without access to a fair trial and then express their feelings in the form of a poem, but without the use of pen or paper.

The competition was inspired by the experiences of Irina Ratushinhskaya in the former Soviet Union, Jack Mapanje in Malawia, and a number of detainees at the infamous American-run prison camp Guantánamo Bay – all of whom produced moving poetry, despite being banned from using pen and paper. Instead they used everyday objects such as toilet paper or disposable cups from their dinner trays to etch their words.

Aditi’s entry was written on the inside of a small piece of paper (4cm by 4cm) that held embroidery thread together.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“The judges were impressed by the innovative ways in which pupils across the country took to the task and really put their minds into how individuals could continue to express themselves given limited resources.

“Aditi’s entry illustrates that perfectly. Using the tinniest scrap of paper, she managed to produce a truly moving poem.

“The standard of entries has been brilliant across the country. It shows how much human rights really means to today’s generation.”

Rebecca Winfield, Aditi’s activities teacher at St Clare’s College, added:

“I am delighted that Aditi’s poem ‘Maze’ won the Amnesty International You Can’t Jail Minds regional competition.

“Aditi really took into account how someone who cannot freely express themselves would find ways around it.

“Her poem is an inspirational piece and illustrates a sense of empathy with prisoners who are denied the freedom of expression. All the staff and students at St. Clare's college are very proud of her achievement.”

Aditi will receive an Amnesty International goodie bag on Tuesday 20 May at 1pm from Amnesty International speaker Jeremy Cunningham at a year group assembly at St Clare’s School.

Aditi’s entry will now be put forward, along with the other regional winners, for the national prize, which will be announced later in the year.

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