Debating as a tool for language and critical thinking

NO AFRICA, NO CRY, YOU WILL BE FINEEDITOR,FOR CENTURIES, superpowers battled to get control of you.For centuries, hegemons continued to exploit you and plunder you.For decades, your own people profited from your treasures and betrayed you.



FOR CENTURIES, superpowers battled to get control of you.
For centuries, hegemons continued to exploit you and plunder you.For decades, your own people profited from your treasures and betrayed you.

For decades, some of your own sold their souls, and depleted you of your children.

Yet, Africa, you’re still standing.

A small piece of you, Africa

A small country in the heart of our Africa - Rwanda.

It was buried to the ground 18 years ago

Yet, Rwanda still stands

See Africa, no cry

Your children will sustain you

Their resilience, their hope, are unparalleled

No Africa, no cry

You are rich, Africa

Your wealth goes beyond gold and oil

Your richness is your youth

Their hope will carry you

Their determination will revive you

No Africa, no cry

You will be fine, Africa


Soraya M. Hakuziyaremye


PREPARING STUDENTS to be critical thinkers and effective communicators is essential in today’s complex education, business and economic environment. Globalisation has created a community of critiques and communicators. In order for Rwandan youth to succeed and possess the ability to compete on the open market, communicate confidently and effectively, being a strong debater is a must. Debates build communication skills, improve critical thinking and problem solving, and develop confidence and respect.

The teaching method of debate will prepare students with such skills. Debates have the ability to reinforce and enhance knowledge in a topic area, to engage students in the learning process, to verify that students have the ability to analyse, incorporate, and apply their knowledge and reading to various situations. Debating can strengthen organisational and listening skills, and boost confidence when challenged on issues by others.

The utilization of structured classroom debates and clubs in schools is a teaching strategy for critical thinking and enhances professional communication skills for a successful future. Debates heighten awareness of attitudes, values and beliefs.

The origin of debating as an educational strategy comes from Protagoras of Abdera, the father of debate, over 2,400 years ago in Athens, Greece. Debates were incorporated in American higher education in the 19th through the early 20th centuries, however lost appeal until the 1980’s as a teaching tool to develop critical thinking, logic and communication skills.

As Rwanda transitions to English as instructional language of education and establishes learner-centred environments in the classroom, it is necessary to move away from the ‘chalk and talk’ teacher directed lecture environments. Students must move from being passive to active learners. Lectures allow students to receive and respond to instruction; debates require students to actively engage in the multi-dimensional teaching and learning.

Debating is dynamic because students must be thoroughly prepared to advocate their stance, at the same time acknowledge the opposition’s arguments, plan counter-arguments, and refute the opposition’s claims with a logical line of thought. This activity of being able to consider the evidence, in different ways and under different conditions, assists students to develop and promote critical thinking skills whilst using the second language of English. Debates therefore, move students beyond the memorization and superficial application of knowledge to actively integrating and applying knowledge and understanding under an array of situations and circumstances.

For further information on debating in Rwanda go to

Pam Connell

VSO Literacy/Numeracy Adviser, TTC Save

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