Debate Mate Rwanda Week One

Debate Mate Rwanda has returned. Another summer in the land of a thousand hills begins, and we start with university students. First stop, the College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda. To begin, participants took part in a massive game of ‘If I ruled the world’ (IIRTW) where we heard world changing policies on the environment, politics, and education. Our students clearly had big ideas for Rwanda. Our returning students even came with pre-prepared ideas of their own. As always, IIRTW made students comfortable presenting their own thoughts, combined with giving the group a chance to learn names and something about their colleagues, to gain a fuller picture of their new classmates, discovering a shared hobby, a common interest – this allowed students to leave apprehension at the door, it was time to debate.

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Pan-Africanism was the theme of week one. This generation of Rwandans are looking outward, to the continent. This is not surprising. The Assembly Chair of the African Union? Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. This appointment has ignited a Pan-African spirit in young Rwandans who spoke of one Africa, collaboration, and ideas that bring integration. This was clear from the Balloon Debate. Amongst the usual suspects (Justin Bieber, Tupac Shakur, etc.) we had great African names like Winnie Mandela, and Jeanette Kagame. Here we looked at style, rather than the characters chosen, the use of physical and audible persuasive tools to convince an audience, swaying judges with hand gestures, eye contact, and owning the space on the stage; all with the aim of gaining votes from the crowd.

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There was close competition in week one. Amaani and Holly’s team emerged as favourites, given their competitive coaches. By competition day it was all to play for. Students debated the banning of music with violent lyrics, and prioritising Sciences over The Arts in education; at the end though, there were only two finalists. Ella and Maria’s team would face off against Amaani and Holly’s team to decide Debate Mate’s University of Rwanda Champions. The motion for the final was: THW prioritise economic development over environmental protection. The final was a hard-fought battle by both sides, but there could only be one winner…Ella and Maria took the W.

It was a great first week in Kigali, next stop Rubavu!

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