Nurturing Rwanda’s great debaters

The recent ‘Rwanda Should Attain Middle Income Status by 2020’ debate, which was held at King David Academy where Lyceé de Kigali debaters emerged winners for both the beginners and advanced level debates, was the first round of a series of inter-school debates organised by iDebate Rwanda, writes Ben Gasore.
This student entertained fellow students by mimicking the President. Education Times/Allan Brian Ssenyonga
This student entertained fellow students by mimicking the President. Education Times/Allan Brian Ssenyonga

The recent ‘Rwanda Should Attain Middle Income Status by 2020’ debate, which was held at King David Academy where Lyceé de Kigali debaters emerged winners for both the beginners and advanced level debates, was the first round of a series of inter-school debates organised by iDebate Rwanda, writes Ben Gasore.

Debating is never a waste of time but a very crucial bit for every student’s learning process. Of recent television audiences have been treated to amazing debates between presidential candidates in USA and even close by in Kenya. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had gruelling debates where they tried to sell their plans for the US in order to convince Americans to vote for them to the most powerful office in the world. 

 

Debating today has even gone to a whole new level of presidential hopefuls in countries like the United States of America, where Obama went head to head with Mitt Romney to explain why the he would be the better candidate for the job. Kenya also had its moment in the lights when it held its first presidential debate. 

 

If Kenya held its first presidential debate with some people in Rwanda watching it live and agreeing that it was worth their time. It could be safe to assume that such a debate can be organised here as well, come 2017. For this to be achieved, the right seeds should be sown at the school level so that young Rwandans develop the skills and confidence to debate. 

 

The recent ‘Rwanda Should Attain Middle Income Status by 2020’ debate, which was held at King David Academy where Lyceé de Kigali debaters emerged winners for both the beginners and advanced level debates was the first round of a series of inter-school debates organised by iDebate Rwanda. They dubbed it a ‘debate league’ that will see schools competing on a monthly basis. 

Speaking to Education Times, Jean Michel Habineza of one the members of iDebate, 14 schools  organization that put together the debate league organized the debate said that 14 schools had turned up for the event and in the coming months more and more schools countrywide would participate in the upcoming monthly debate tournaments.

Schools that graced the exciting event included Lyceé de Kigali (eventual winners), Ape Rugunga, Glory Secondary School, FAWE Girls, IPRC Kigali Technical School, IFAK, Riviera High School, Kagarama Secondary School, Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux, La Colombiere, Star Secondary School and King David Academy the hosts.

The tournament consisted of two rounds in which both beginners and advanced level debaters participated separately. Finalists from each level were determined and winners awarded. The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana was the chief guest that day. 

In the final round of the debates, Lyceé de Kigali debated with Lyceé Notre Dame de Citeaux and King David Academy at the beginners and advanced levels respectively.

Annet Mwizerwa, from FAWE Girls took the best beginners’ speaker trophy while Precious Nyabami from the same school took the trophy for the advanced. 

After awarding certificates and trophies to the outstanding performers of the day, the minister advised students that the best way of being a debater is by staying informed.

“Debating is like a sport, winning takes dedication and hard work and there is one winner but it doesn’t mean that the rest are losers. You have to keep debating,” Nsengimana told the youth.

Many debaters here in Rwandan schools face challenges to do with self esteem levels, general confidence when it comes to public speaking skills. Some school administrators also neglect debates seeing them as not so important as compared to real academic work aimed at passing exams. Of course this is a very dangerous way of prioritising learning. Of what use is an A student if he cannot speak well during a job interview? 

Nsengimana said that it was now upon him and his colleagues to see to it that student debaters have a platform to argue debate motions so that they may be able to point out some faults which officials in the government and other institutions may not see. 

Saturday’s debate saw the rise of many future leaders who spoke confidently on the topic of Rwanda’s economy as far as Vision 2020 is concerned. 

“Debating comes along with many benefits. One learns a lot during a debate; this time there was a lot of economics knowledge being offered!” acknowledged Mr. Simon Adigas, patron of King David Academy’s debate club.

He however advised that next time debaters be straight to the point while airing out their debating views.

While Mr Adigas was urging the debaters to be straight forward, Riviera’s Aimeé  Iradukunda proved that she was as sharp while arguing out the motion saying the current policies, particularly in agriculture would enable the government achieve its 2012 vision.

“The cassava, sugar, coffee and so on grown in the different districts earns people income every day. Surely Rwanda will not fail to achieve middle income status by 2020,” she argued.

Her Lyceé de Kigali opponent, Vincent Kalema didn’t fail to amuse the audience while opposing saying that Rwanda achieving the vision by or before 2020 was like going to heaven without dying.

The audience couldn’t help but burst in laughter as he went on to explain that the country still faced many challenges and many were still leaving on less than a dollar per day.

“This vision should be changed to Vision 2030 at least, because we still have a long way to go,” Kalema said. The hard-hitting debates were often tempered with funny quips that would send the audience into bouts of laughter. And a good start for better things to come.

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