Debate Mate Rwanda Week Two
Week 2 – Gisenyi!
Feeling energised after a successful week at the University of Rwanda, we set off by coach to Gisenyi: a town in the West of Rwanda. Time passed quickly as we spent the entire journey playing music and signing along as we passed through Rwanda’s beautiful ‘rolling hills’. Upon arrival we were briefed on our plan for the week and went to bed early, eager to start teaching in the secondary schools of Gisenyi.
On Monday, the team was divided between five secondary schools across the Rubavu district. We quickly adapted to the different challenges that became apparent. We found that some students spoke very little English, many struggled with confidence – especially the female students – and some mentors had to adapt to groups with a diverse range in debating and English language abilities. This was something that our team were eager to help with in any way we could in order to support the students to be able to compete! Some mentors resorted to more techniques that used less verbal engagement, finding demonstrations and fun games such as ‘Splat!’ built the confidence and understanding of the students. Moreover, many mentors attempted to tackle confidence issues of the students through providing them with leadership positions in group activities.
What had started as a rather daunting prospect turned round quickly through the incentive of the mentors. All of the mentors were thoroughly pleased and proud that the students had picked up ‘PEEL’, rebuttal and Points Of Information after two days: an accomplishment many were unsure would be achieved given the low confidence and English ability the first day presented.
The third day with the students in Gisenyi for all mentors focussed on the fun of practising debating as the competition day approached.
Both mentors and students alike were excited for the competition day, where two teams where selected to represent their schools and battle it out to be Debate Mate Rubavu Champions 2018! The motions discussed in Round 1 and 2 – “This House Believes that rural life is better than urban life” and “This House Would give every child a mobile phone” – incited passionate speeches from all students. However, Millie’s team from Stella Marise and Charmaine and Maria’s team from Gacuba emerged finalists. After an eloquent debate and questions from the floor on the motion “This house would change the voting age from 18 to 16” Millie’s team were crowned as champions. They celebrated their victory with an entertaining performance of a song written by the Stella Marise students to thank Debate Mate for all their guidance. This turned into a celebratory dance, where the mentor’s decent dancing was soon upstaged by the impressive moves of the students and football skills of Millie, finishing the day with a hilarious inter school rap battle!
We were all sad to see the students go, however felt optimistic that we were able to bring the teachers and students from across the Rubavu district together starting conversations about forming their own regional debating programme!
By Ella and Holly (the best mentors).