They Will Fight and Leave Nothing Behind

I once met an official in the ministry of Education who told me arrogantly “ I’m sorry to say but I think debate is useless”. You can imagine my shock at hearing those words coming from an educator, so to clarify his statement, I asked him a simple question “ So…. Are you making an argument about how making arguments is useless?” and with a nod he said “YES”.. ohhhh how I wish I was in a debate round because I would have just looked at the judge and told him” Thank you, I have no further questions” and of course a MIC DROP and a High Five to my team mates would have followed ( only Debaters can understand the joys of this kind of moments).

Does Debate matter? This is a question that I get asked a lot and to answer this question I could cite numerous studies that show how participation in the activity of Debate increases the students’s public speaking skills, critical thinking skills, academic performance but today I want to show the importance of debate through the lives of #TeamRwanda Representing the country at the World School Debate Championship.

StellaItuze_EADI first met Stella when I started coaching her school in February 2013 at Lycee Notre Dame De Citeaux. My first impression of her was “Mann this kid is funny”. She was on the Junior team of LNDC and she was just in senior 3 but she was so confident. When I told the team that they had to win the competition, for her I was just repeating what she already knew was going to happen. Though they did not win the tournament, this was just the beginning of a great journey coaching Stella. One year later, she is admitted to Gashora Girls Academy and at her first competition she’s already the best speaker. You do not know what energy is until you have met Stella. My best Moment as a coach was when in Uganda for the East African Debate Championship which brought together the best 60 teams in the region, was when Stella was called as THE BEST FEMALE DEBATER. As she came back from getting her award, she was in total shock that she was able to do that well and as I hugged her deep in my heart I knew that this was not luck but a result of her hard work.

I first met Kassy and Bryan when I was a teacher and debate coach at Green Hills Academy in September 2013. My first assignment as a coach was to prepare a team that would represent the school at the National Young Entrepreneurs Debate Championship, a national debate tournament that brings together the best 30 teams in the country. By sheer coincidence I ended up with a team made up of Kassy Irebe, Bryan Manzi and Amanda Isaro. Kassy was on the team because she was one of the few people who did a homework I had given them , Bryan was a nerd so it just made sense that he would be on the team and Amanda was Madame TT(Tout Travaux). There was just a small problem, they were all 13 years and I knew for sure that the youngest people at the tournament would be at least 17, but we made a commitment to each other that we were going to take the trophy.

GHATeamOneFor the next two weeks, GHA Team1 stayed at school after hours listening to boring lectures about how the economy works and reading the national budget and understanding concepts that I only understood in university. I was not only fascinated by their brilliance at such a young age but I was also impressed with their work ethics, they would sometimes sleep just a few hours because they were reading articles and books to prepare for the debates.
Two weeks later, on September 29th 2013, GHA Team 1 was undefeated and in the finals against Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux. The room was full with about 500 people present and in all of those only about 10 people were supporting GHA. I remember the feeling that very few get experienced when the MC called GHA as the winners of the NYEPD, WE HAD DONE IT.

Stella, Kassy and Bryan have been chosen to represent Rwanda at the World School Debate Championship and that in itself is already an accomplishment and such a thrill for them. But having seen them do what they do best for the last three years, I can assure you that they will represent us really well.

Will they win? I don’t know but I can assure you of one thing “ THEY WILL FIGHT AND LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND”

So please give that opportunity by sharing the link and donating to the cause.

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