Nepal Competition Day!

photo credit: James Waterfield

The morning of the highly anticipated Competition Day had finally arrived and spirits were high. My fellow Kathmandu mentors and I enjoyed getting snazzed up; I’d been waiting for an opportunity to put on my purple suit which had a rather 80s feel. My two student teams ran over to greet me, eager to get debating. The Kathmandu mentors had a final chat with their teams and I could hear chanting all around my classroom – namely, “I say debate you say mate, debate, mate, debate, mate!” My kids reassured me that they had had a good night sleep, making sure they were as prepared as possible; all so determined to do their best.

The other Debate Mate mentors arrived, wearing groovy traditional Nepalese hats, accompanied by their teams from Bhaktapur and a team from Pokhara. We also had the wonderful Sima join us who participated in Debate Mate herself, while attending the Bhaktapur Somata school, before studying medicine at university and continuing debating. Her presence acted as such an inspiration to us all, especially the students. To massively add to this excitement, Scott, a world class debating judge and coach, who had also trained Sima, had flown into Nepal from London to help judge the competition.

 The children flooded into the courtyard of the white washed bamboo school and were ushered into lines ready for the announcement of who was proposition and who was opposition, and of course the motion. 

photo credit: James Waterfield

Alex announced the first motion – ‘this house would ban exams’, and immediately the students started scribbling on their papers, going into ‘BRAP’ mode. 

Mentors were paired up so each team had two judges to enable fair scoring. The arguments from both teams that I judged were very impressive, with the side opposition focusing on the point that exams provide a key indication of ones ability to enable improvement and thus provide ‘brighter futures’. I often heard the children crucially associating the idea of ‘brighter futures’ with education and hard work. The side proposition explored ideas, such as exams causing pressure and hindering creativity. Overall the debates were a success, and after a break of steamed, tasty momos for lunch, the second motion was announced – ‘This house would ban strikes’. Once again, the students produced sophisticated arguments whilst utilising PEEL. The crux of the argument was workers rights versus the disruption of harmony and danger posed by strikes. 

The results were recorded and everyone eagerly gathered to hear who was to go through to the next stage. In third place was Pokhara – a remarkable achievement considering they had only had one day of debate training, although that had been a very intense day. I was so thrilled to have my Red team put through to final against James’ team from Bhaktapur. Both teams went wild! My students were beaming, jumping up and down and waving at me in disbelief. The final motion was announced – ‘This House would introduce compulsory national conscription’. Butterflies gripped my stomach as Netra took my team to a room to prepare their arguments and Lizzie led James’ team away. 

photo credit: James Waterfield

Kandy, Sana, Sima, Scott and Alex sat down on the judging panel, pens at the ready. Hundreds of school children gathered to watch the final, and Jack whipped up the crowds excitement as he introduced the debate. 

Both teams were outstanding! My team had fantastic style, really drawing in the crowd, and speaking so impressively into the mike. James’ team also performed superbly and edged ahead with strong content in their debates, and after much anticipation they were announced the winners! I was so proud of both teams, debating so passionately and confidently in front of such a large audience.

After the final, the time came to say goodbye to our beloved students. I felt overwhelming proud of them; they had been an absolute pleasure to teach, so respectful and kind, taking on board all the lessons and coaching from the past few weeks to become incredibly talented young debaters. They had completely amazed me and I felt utterly in awe of them! They gave me heartfelt thank you notes and lovely gifts, including a Buddha, all of which I will treasure. They all said how grateful they were for Debate Mate, and how it had changed their lives! I must confess it was a challenge keeping my emotions together. The Competition was such a positive and memorable way to end the programme.

photo credit: James Waterfield

Sushil then generously treated us to dinner, where we were able to meet his sweet young son. Uttam Sanjel, the founder of the Somata Bamboo Schools, also met us at the restaurant and thanked us for the programme. He shared the positive news about the Somata Schools expansion into other regions and countries, such as Bangladesh. After saying goodbye to Sushil, who had been the most wonderful and welcoming headmaster, clearly adored by all his students, we headed back into Thamel. We ended the evening with a particularly hilarious Karaoke experience in which I can safely say none of the mentors held back. It was great to celebrate the end of such a successful Debate Mate international summer programme all together.

Eva Barnsley