On March 28th, various Rwandan high school students gathered at Lycee de Kigali secondary School for the Rwanda Annual School’s 2010 Mock Debate. The mock debate is an annual activity that is organized by Innovative Partners’ Rwanda and any selected school; this year’s debate championship host was Lycee de Kigali.
A mock debate is a type of debating where participants dress like presidents; they have first ladies and ministers.
They are treated like the people they represent and they have to do intensive research about the countries they have been allocated to represent. This was the second time such a debate has happened in Rwanda.
The previous one took place at Riviera High School in 2008 under the theme; the East African Community Mock Debate and attracted 100 students.
This year’s mock debate dubbed; “The Commonwealth Mock Debate” under the theme “fighting poverty and ignorance while uniting for a more sustainable future” was equally challenging.
The debate aimed at creating a vivid picture of what happens in the Commonwealth Heads’ of State Meeting and helped the students to understand what the Commonwealth Group of Nations is all about.
The different schools involved were allocated to specific member states of the Commonwealth. The entire session was chaired by her Majesty the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II and presided over by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Each President arrived with his contingent which comprised of the First Lady, three ministers and a bodyguard. The Presidents were led to the waiting room where they privately met other heads of state present.
Later they went to the conference hall and the debate session was officially opened by the Queen.
The presidents gave their policy statements which were in line with the theme. They presented different ways in which their countries were involved towards eradicating poverty and ignorance while at the same time suggested possible solutions to some of the challenges that the Commonwealth nations are facing.
Aware of the pivotal role of critical thought and advancement of African development, the debate tournament attracted 300 students from different schools across the country.
The arbitration panel included John Wills from Oxford University, England and Ann Duncan, the Project Director of Never Again Rwanda.
It was a mind boggling moment for the students as they learnt about the characteristics and aspects of the Commonwealth Organization, the role of Rwanda in the Commonwealth, the benefits that Rwanda shall gain and the challenges the country is set to face as a member of the organization.
Also present was a panel of Mock journalists from different media houses who asked the presidents of the day, different questions about the policies that they had forwarded to the Commonwealth Group of Nations.
Sandra Teta from Lycee de Kigali Secondary School who represented Kenya was excited about the opportunity to debate.
“This debate has enabled me to make new friends and improved my debating and presentation skills. This is the first mock debate I am participating in even though I had previously read a lot about the UN Mock debate.”
Another student Shema, from Nu-Vision Secondary School, claimed the debate was educational for Rwandan schools.
“I did not know what Rwanda wanted from the Commonwealth but I now know.
In case we are questioned about this in the examinations, I know what to write and surely am also going to teach my fellow students about the Commonwealth Organization,” said Shema.
Fred Ndoli, the Director of Administration at Innovative Partners Rwanda, emphasized the need for informed Rwandans to pass on knowledge about the Commonwealth to the younger generation.
“Debates help students to become critical thinkers, researchers and empowers them with good personal presentation skills. This is an element that is lacking in our students,” Ndoli said.
Ndoli cited the importance of working together with the government and other stakeholders to organize ground breaking programs that provide Rwandan students and the entire region with a unique opportunity to engage critically in African and global issues.
“We are looking at having even more debates around the country to help even the child down in the village understand some of these government programs because they are designed for their own good since they are the future of this country,” Ndoli explained.
Adding that, “We want to and I hope many people will join us as we try to elevate the standards of youth debate and dialogue in the country.”
The chief guest Patrick Karangwa, the Director General of Rwanda Youth Parliament (PAJER), a non government organization was impressed by Innovative Partners Rwanda (I.P.R) for their efforts towards organizing the debate and promised his continued support towards debate initiatives.
He said some of the participants would represent Rwanda at the IDEA Youth Forum this year in the Netherlands.
Innovative Partners Rwanda is a private firm that deals in debates, public sector development, education and events management. It is working with PAJER to promote debates across the country.
Currently I.P.R is working with PAJER to carryout different debate programs in the country with the support of Rwanda’s Ministry of Education.
The overall best school in the debate competition was Lycee de Kigali Secondary School and the best debater was Christine Teta, a student at the school.
The event was organized by Innovative Partners Rwanda in collaboration with Lyce De Kigali and sponsored by Inyange Industries and Sulfo Rwanda.
The event was graced by some of the leading schools in Kigali such as Lyce de Kigali, King David Academy, Nu-Vision School and Essa – Nyarugunga.
Present were also some of the finest debaters in the country such Anders Moller and Teta Christine. This was a one daylong event that left a lasting impression in the lives of the participants.
The writer is the Managing Director
Innovative Partners’ Rwanda