Gashora Girls Academy students in Bugesera are Africa debate champions.
The Rwandan youngsters won Africa’s maiden debate championship in Kampala, Uganda, on Friday.
The whole team was crowned champions, with Natasha Teta Semwaga scooping the Best Speaker award, Nikitah Isabella winning the 3rd best speaker award, and Sylvie Mahoro Wairimu emerging best country speaker.
Semwaga, 17, a senior six student in Mathematics, Physics and Geography, told The New Times that the Africa Debate Championship brought together seven countries from the continent to debate about issues pertinent to the continent.
The debate brought together students from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
She said it was their school that informed them about the competition and selected those that represented the Bugesera District-based school.
“We then started intense preparations and I believe it paid off because we came back with the trophy,” Semwaga said.
Speaking about the subjects that most interested her during the competition, Teta mentioned Pan-Africanism, around which the motion for the final debate was crafted.
There was also another about beauty contest and grand state corruption where some debaters said those found guilty of corruption should face the death penalty.
She added that it was a great championship because it involved young generation trying to think of the current issues and possibly the solutions if they are affecting Africa in a bad way.
Nikitah Isabella, 16, a senior five student of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, was third best speaker of the tournament. She said the competition was intense even though they had thought it was going to be easy for Ugandans and South Africans.
“We have learnt a lot and sometimes it is not about the drama, it’s a contest and sometimes you just need to see it from a different angle; an angle that will surprise your opponents,” she said.
“The future is bright mostly because where we went, many thought the debate was only for people who were going to do law, but we proved them wrong because my whole team does sciences,” she added.
Samantha Bell, the debate coach and an American volunteer at Gashora Girls Academy, said when they first learnt they would be competing, most of the girls were apprehensive because they had never competed at such a level before.
“We only stepped up the preparations and when we arrived at the championship and they started debating I was so proud of how well they did. It was so amazing to see how much they’ve grown in the last few months of preparations,” Bell said.
She said debate historically has been dominated by boys.
“Girls can compete on equal level. Girls in science can compete in debate which also breaks a lot of stereotypes. And I think also in Rwanda and in Africa, it seems like people underestimate the English abilities and so lots of people were very impressed by that,” Bell said.
The debate coach also said that the girls’ accomplishment will inspire a lot of other young girls and described it as yet another milestone for Rwanda as a country known to promoting and empowering women.